At face value, this seems like a trick question. In a race setting, of course racing slicks would offer the best grip versus a road-legal track tire. Thing is, racing slicks are designed for race cars. Your average road-going car, even one with some performance DNA, doesn't operate at the same level. It's like dumping racing fuel into the tank of your daily driven muscle car. Unless the car is tuned to use it, the expensive gas is just wasted.
That's what makes this new video from Tyre Reviews so interesting. Anyone who attends track days or autocross events with a street car is well aware of the tremendous difference between street tires and track tires. The real question is whether street cars – where comfort and everyday practicality still outweigh performance – experience a similar level of improvement from track tires to dedicated slicks. To find out, tire guru Jonathan Benson turned to Hyundai and Pirelli for help.
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With a performance-oriented suspension and 276 horsepower going to the front wheels, the i30 N is a capable hot hatch that can easily exceed the limits of its street tires. Benson exercised the Hyundai for the better part of a day, cycling through four sets of 18-inch Pirelli tires starting with P Zero ultra-high-performance street rubber. Next up was a set of P Zero Trofeo R road-legal track tires, followed by not one but two sets of Pirelli hard compound racing slicks. The first set was designed for use on the front of Ferrari cup cars, with the second designed specifically for front-wheel-drive race cars. Was there a difference?
In short, hell yes there was. Starting with a lap time of 1:38.02 on street tires, the time fell to 1:34.81 on the track tires, with Benson confirming much-improved mid-corner grip. However, the Ferrari-focused slicks cut another 2.48 seconds off the track tires, with the i30 N clocking a 1:32.33. Switching to the front-wheel-drive racing slicks was only slightly better, returning a 1:31.79.
Gallery: Hyundai i30 N (2020)
Honestly, some improvement was expected but two and a half seconds is a lifetime on a race track. On a car as modest as the i30 N, it's a very impressive test and it shows that, even without a hardcore suspension setup, pure slicks are absolutely the best tire choice for ultimate grip at the track.
In the dry, anyway.