200-treadwear tire test | Falken RT660 vs. Yokohama A052 vs. Nankang CR-1

Andy
By Andy Hollis
May 27, 2021 | Tire Test, Falken, Yokohama, Nankang, 200tw | Posted in Features | From the June 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Andy Hollis unless otherwise credited; Lead by Rob Phelan/Photomotion Photography

Spring is in the air. Temperatures are up, bluebonnets are blooming, and the latest tire updates are here. 

A new season brings with it a fresh start on events, builds and equipment, with tire makers keen to market their latest offerings. In particular, the wildly popular 200tw segment continues to evolve with new players, new sizes and new tweaks to existing products. But sometimes, what’s old is new again.

The Extreme Performance Summer tire category really hit its stride two decades ago when Falken introduced the Azenis Sport RT-215. Thanks to its massive grip, responsive handling and long life–all at a fair price–it nailed the sweet spot for performance value.

The SCCA was first to embrace the trend with its Street Touring autocross classes, but other sanctioning bodies soon followed. Taking notice of the growing demand, additional tire makers joined the fray and a continual game of bar-raising ensued: Toyo, Bridgestone, Kumho, Dunlop, BFGoodrich, Falken and Yokohama have all enjoyed stints at the top.

A year ago, we tested Falken’s latest offering, the Azenis RT660, and found it to be very close to the category-leading Yokohama Advan A052 in an autocross setting. However, it was a little off the pace on track, and wear was also a concern. 

Since that test, Falken updated the tire before selling it to the general public. The manufacturer also recently added new sizes to the lineup. After a year’s worth of positive results in the field, it’s time for us to take another look: Falken versus Yokohama.

But this time we’re adding a newcomer to the mix. Last fall, we tested Nankang’s AR-1, a 100tw track tire, which exhibited exemplary handling characteristics. The brand has since introduced a 200tw model that has shown promising results from early adopters, especially since the new model comes in a 245/40R15. It’s not the most common size, but it has proved to work very well on early Miatas and wishbone Hondas. So, out of these three, what’s the hot pick for a 23-inch-tall, 200tw tire? 

Our test mule for this effort is our One Lap CRX, which we’ve recently begun to freshen up for use in SCCA, NASA and Gridlife time trial events. Currently sporting a 225-horsepower K24 out of an Acura TSX and weighing in at 1900 pounds, it provides plenty of punch to fully exercise the entire performance envelope of a tire. 

The grip of the front tires is especially important, as they do triple duty: the majority of braking on corner entry, 65% of the lateral load mid-corner, and every bit of the forward drive on exit. Wheels are 6UL alloys by 949Racing: 15x9 inch in front, 15x8 at the rear. 

We decided to start this comparison with the Yokohama A052 as our baseline tire, even though its largest 15-inch size is just a 205/50R15. Still, that tire works quite well when stretched out on a 9-inch-wide wheel. Sometimes you have to look beyond what worked in the past. 

As always, our procedure for this track test starts with an out lap to warm up, followed by four or five timed hot laps. The tires typically deliver maximum performance within the first lap or two before falling off by as much as a half-second due to excess heat. 

This testing format is ideal for simulating time trial and autocross use, but it challenges the driver to nail all aspects of a lap very quickly. And the larger the performance envelope of the vehicle, the harder this is to do. That’s why we use an AiM Solo 2 DL data logger–not only for timing, but to dissect each lap for driving consistency and tire performance.

In addition to our rigorous test session, we spent a day earlier in the week scrubbing and heat cycling each of the tires. This was done on the atypical counterclockwise layout of Harris Hill Raceway, our regular home for track tire tests. While this wasn’t a fully bracketed test, we included the times as a second data point on relative performance since the track feels very different when run backward.

The Tires

From left to right: The Benchmark, Yokohama Advan A052; The Newcomer, Nankang CR-1; The Returning Contender, Falken Azenis RT660

Yokohama Advan A052

205/50R15 front, 205/50R15 rear

 

  • fastest test lap: 1:22.56
  • fastest scrub-in lap: 1:25.82

Thanks to a long list of SCCA Solo national championships and time trial wins to its credit, the Yokohama has earned its place as the current benchmark. Its soft compound delivers massive grip even when cold, but response and feedback feel rather vague, making it easy to overdrive. The Yokohama also requires wide wheel widths and lots of camber to deliver optimal performance and life. Skimp on either of these, and you’ll be buying new tires quite often–but get it right, and you’ll be winning. 

We ran these at both the beginning and end of our test to gauge any track or driver changes. Out laps showed immediate grip, and the quickest test lap (1:22.56) came on the second go-round. Subsequent laps were a couple of tenths slower, and the tire started to feel mushier with more audible squeal at the limit. It’s quick but requires finesse.

Nankang CR-1

245/40R15 front, 225/45R15 rear

  • fastest test lap: 1:22.78
  • fastest scrub-in lap: 1:25.38

Call this the wild card of the test, but we had heard good things going in. After development testing with select time attack teams throughout much of last year, the final version is now rolling out in a full lineup of sizes. At press time, only one more wheel diameter was needed to meet SCCA rules for both autocross and time trials.

Full grip wasn’t available immediately but came in after a handful of turns. Compared to the Yokohama, braking was improved substantially–so much that we overslowed for the first big braking zone on lap one. 

Mid-corner grip felt similar to the Yokohama’s, but it quickly saturated the tire with heat as laps progressed. The Nankang also delivered better corner-exit power delivery, but the heavier and wider tire ceded some of that on the straights. The first lap ended up being our best, but the overslowing cost us a couple of tenths. Note also that this tire was the quickest of the group during our counterclockwise scrub-in sessions.

Falken Azenis RT660

245/40R15 front, 225/45R15 rear

  • fastest test lap: 1:22.49
  • fastest scrub-in lap: 1:25.61

Falken didn’t recently discover this market segment. Twenty years ago, as a relatively new brand here in the States, it delivered the Azenis Sport RT-215: a fast, true street tire that didn’t command a premium. Autocrossers suddenly had a new option. 

The latest Falken was the most responsive of the bunch by far. Where the other two felt somewhat vague, the RT660 delivered very connected and linear handling. It was especially conducive to combined loading under trail-braking, finding time over the Nankang in the entries to the track’s tight Turns 4 and 7. 

The Falken also hung in there for several laps before losing some grip, giving the driver more chances at connecting all the dots in a single circuit. Bonus: When we inspected all of the tires after the test, the Falken displayed the least amount of wear.

Yokohama Advan A052 (retest)

  • fastest retest lap: 1:22:43

To make sure that conditions remained steady, we reran the Yokohamas. A bit of driver improvement on the gut-check entry to Turn 1 bought us a little time, but other than that, the data traces overlaid quite well, showing a consistent day at the track.

Three Tires, Three Winners

This test ended up in a rare dead heat. The time differences, especially when including the counterclockwise sessions, show minimal variations in overall performance capability.

Each tire has its own strengths, and ultimately the quickest will be the one that best matches your driving style and setup. Underpowered cars will likely do better with the low rolling resistance and lighter weight of the narrower Yokohama Advan A052. Drivers with more power on tap and the desire for more consistent performance will value the Falken Azenis RT660. And with its nice balance of all attributes, the Nankang CR-1 will be “just right” for many.

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Comments
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thashane
thashane GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/27/21 10:38 a.m.

Great comparison, leaning towards the 660s as the next tire from A052s, just for the size options (more tire (width), more better?). I would've purchased 660s, but they wouldn't have arrived in time for the next event, and didn't want to use 340tw Firestone Indy 500's as an excuse.

The internet (and this article) proclaimed that A052s don't do well on camber limited cars, I would agree. We'll see how they do once I get camber plates and B6 struts on.

And to be honest, I had more fun on the Firestones, just because the limit was clearly defined. I had difficulty defining the limit on the A052s, from "could I have gone faster?" To completely over driving them, and imagining the tire shoulder desintigrating.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/27/21 10:45 a.m.

Lots of new options for 200 TW tires. I just bought the same tires I've been using, 225/45-15 Rival 1.5 for my ES Miata. I know they work despite being limited to a six inch wheel width. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/27/21 12:24 p.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

Lots of new options for 200 TW tires. I just bought the same tires I've been using, 225/45-15 Rival 1.5 for my ES Miata. I know they work despite being limited to a six inch wheel width. 

Lots and lots of options plus more on the way. That's what got us working on our upcoming tire guide. What we tried to do using our data and analysis: Help you pick the right tire for your situation, whether you're doing autocross, track days, time trials, endurance, etc. The A052, for example, delivers on the autocross but isn't the top endurance tire. The RS4 seems to work best in enduro situations. 

In addition to the 200tw field, we also look at true R-comps, 100tw track tires and even the tires found on One Lap--fast tires that aren't quite as extreme as the 200tw models. 

I think this article will help people do some shopping. (We're doing the final proofing of it now.)

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/27/21 1:54 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

This is a good example of how much GRM gives back to us. 
 

Thanks to the entire team. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/27/21 2:47 p.m.
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

This is a good example of how much GRM gives back to us. 
 

Thanks to the entire team. 

Thank you. We have a great team.

Also in the August issue: Valino's new VR08GP track tire vs. Yokohama Advan A052 and Falken Azenis RT660 plus a little guide for Radwood-approved tires--if you're going to rock an '80s car, you need the appropriate tires, right? 

WonkoTheSane
WonkoTheSane GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/27/21 2:53 p.m.

All this content is awesome.  Thanks team!

 

Andy always delivers excellence in these tests.

malibuguy
malibuguy GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/27/21 3:25 p.m.

Ill still stick with my Federal Pros...I have become one with them

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