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The pros and cons of semi-slick tyres

Semi-slick tyres are great for the track, but won't help you on the road.
Peter Barnwell
CarsGuide

8 May 2015 • 4 min read

The temptation to fit so called semi-slicks, also known as R-compound tyres to your high performance road car is strong, especially if it's modified with increased power and dynamic enhancements.

Most tyre companies offer semi-slicks that promise optimum grip compared with a standard road tyre. The subtext to that is that they are talking about a motorsport environment - race-track driving.

MISTAKEN

A growing number of sporty car owners are under the mistaken belief that semi-slicks will better suit their car for everyday road use because of the high grip levels they offer.

But according to Steve Burke of Toyo Tire Australia, "They are chucking money away because semi slicks ride much harder, have limited heat cycles before the rubber 'goes off', wear quicker and take longer to warm up to full grip temperature."

It's probably more a case of bragging rights rather than any gain in overall driveability

"They would be much better off with performance road tyres such as the Toyo Proxes T1 Sport and have their R-compounds on a second set of rims that can be fitted for competitive events," he said.

"Semi-slick tyres look more aggressive but it's probably more a case of bragging rights rather than any gain in overall driveability on the street," says Steve.

R-COMPOUND

Toyo Tire Australia make the Proxes R888, a semi-slick which Steve says is a good all round medium R-compound tyre suitable for various circuit racing and competition applications particularly on production cars and slightly modified vehicles.

He says they are ideal for track day driving and will see plenty of laps without losing grip - right down to the bottom of the tread.

ON THE TRACK

We took Steve at his word and fitted a set of R888s to a Mazda MX-5 for a track day super sprint event that comprised eight six-lap "races".

Once we arrived at the correct pressure when the tyre is hot (about 32 psi), the R888s hunkered down and did not lose grip once during any session despite lapping in the top 10 on the day against cars with more power some of which had full slick tyres.

Though they are made to offer progressive break away that simply did not happen on our track day session. They offered a rock solid feel with quick steering and no noise at all - no squealing as well as stable braking. 

The car is set up with fairly aggressive steering alignment and even after a full day at the track, the tyres looked good and still ready for the next event.

They are good for their intended motorsport purpose

They are legal for driving on public roads and we haven't experience any issues doing just that on the R888s but will be buying a second set of rims soon, promise.

The Proxes R888s are CAMS approved for racing and are sanctioned for various production car and historical racing events.

VERDICT

The wash up on semi-slicks is that they are good for their intended motorsport purpose.

If you never go to the track, buy a set of performance road tyres instead.