Tested: How tires perform on track as they wear

Andy
By Andy Hollis
Jul 6, 2024 | Tire Test, tires, Bridgestone, Falken, Bridgestone RE-71RS, Heat Cycle, Falken RT660, Tread Life | Posted in Features | Never miss an article

Photography Credits: David S. Wallens (Lead), Andy Hollis

What happens to tires after our tests? We keep running them–and we keep learning.

Our latest findings: Some tires get better the more you run them. Specifically, longterm testing of the Falken Azenis RT660 and the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS showed that tread depth, heat cycling and rotation can impact performance over the tire’s lifetime.

[200-treadwear tire test | Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS vs. Falken Azenis RT660]

When we first compared these tires during the summer of 2022, both sets were brand-new save a single heat cycle. During that test, the Bridgestone’s single-lap pace was a solid 0.7 second quicker. Both tires also delivered one to two fast laps and then slowed about a half second on subsequent laps.

Initial Track Results

Meet Our Tires

Over the next several months, we made regular visits in our Triple Threat ND-chassis Miata to Harris Hill Raceway, site of that initial test, to run two or three sessions of about six laps each. We swapped back and forth between the Bridgestones and Falkens while logging all the data.

After a while, we saw some interesting trends. First off, lap times on both tires were getting quicker–to the tune of 2 full seconds. Those times were becoming more consistent, too, with the quickest typically showing up later in the session.

Long-term Track Results

Wanting to know more about the source of these anecdotal trends, we devised another scientific test. This time we’d pit our faithful soldiers against fresh recruits, a new, full-tread set of Bridgestone’s Potenza RE-71RS. 

[Ultimate track tire guide | 200tw, 100tw, street-legal track and R-comps]

The big question we’d answer: Did reduced tread depth and additional heat cycling make the tires that much faster?

While performing this test, we’d also have to mind other possible factors: How much had the cooler fall weather helped? Was the dirt kicked up by nearby construction still impacting grip? 

Time to head back to the track. 

Shaving Off Time

Recent rains delivered a clean track the morning of our test, so we went right to work. We completed a single warmup session on our seasoned Falkens, allowed them to cool for 30 minutes, and then went back out on them to record times. 

Showing its battle-hardened consistency, the Falken delivered five laps that were all within 0.4 second, firing off a best-ever run on the final pass at 1:26.7.

Next up was the worn Bridgestone, now sporting a tread depth of just 3/32 to 4/32 inch. Not to be outdone by the Falken, the Bridgestone cracked off five laps all within a single tenth, twice matching its previous best of 1:25.6. 

And then came the moment of truth: a performance retreat back to the new Bridgestone. As in our original test, the opening salvo was its best, with subsequent laps falling off. The best time on the new tire was 1:26.3, a full 0.7 second slower than the veteran set, and the session wasn’t nearly as consistent.

Before we left, we again mounted up the Falken and did some laps to verify that track conditions and our driving hadn’t changed for the day. Indeed, they had not; we matched our earlier times. 

Once back home, the data revealed five lessons. 

Lesson 1: Less tread depth enhances both pace and consistency, at least for these two tire models. 

In back-to-back testing, the Bridgestone RE-71RS was 0.7 second quicker at 3/32 to 4/32 inch of tread than at full depth. And although we didn’t compare worn to new directly, the worn Falken RT660 was within 0.4 second of the full-tread RE-71RS, where it was 0.7 second off when we compared new to new in our first test. This suggests that the worn Falken was 0.3 second faster than new. 

This result should come as no huge surprise, as shaving street tires is a time-tested strategy. That said, there was a period when the top dogs didn’t benefit from it–we’re looking at you, BFG RivalS and Bridgestone RE-71R–and many competitors eschewed the practice. 

Shaving also costs money, both for the operation itself–typically about $15 a tire–and in reduced service life. Fortunately, a similar effect can be achieved simply by carefully wearing down the tires to their optimal depth as we did here. It does take some planning, or multiple sets of tires, to have them perfected when important competitions come along.

Lesson 2: The Bridgestone RE-71RS wears down much more quickly than the Falken RT660. 

With equal use, the Bridgestone lost about half its tread while the Falken lost less than a third. Plus, the Falken is molded with 12% more rubber. It may be a little slower, but the RT660 will deliver significantly more laps than the Bridgestone. 

Lesson 3: More heat cycles can be beneficial. 

Our Falken’s lap times dropped faster than the tread disappeared, suggesting that this tire model needed more than the initial pre-test heat cycle to develop maximum grip. We’ve also seen this trait in the Yokohama Advan A052.

Lesson 4: Diligent rotation between positions will even out the wear, prolonging service life. 

Since we always run at the same track in the same counterclockwise direction, most of our wear comes on the right side of the car, so we often trade our rights with our lefts. Further, the fronts wear in a slightly different pattern than the rears, so we also swap tires end to end periodically.

But what about the directional nature of the Falken RT660? That’s only applicable in the wet for evacuation. In the dry, you can run them in either direction. They’ll be a little noisier on the street when run backward, though.

Lesson 5: Different tires can desire different pressures. 

Thanks to our lightweight Miata’s abundant camber and wheel width, we found that hot pressures around 30 psi result in even wear and optimal performance with the RE-71RS. The Falken delivered better wear around 32 to 34 psi hot, with no change in performance from lower pressures.

One Last Lesson

Tires remain one of the most significant performance variables. And, as this test shows, a single tire model’s performance can change depending on its age and pressure. 

The trick, as usual, is to leverage those changes to your advantage. One easy way to do that: Take notes.

Full Tread vs. Worn Track Results

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Comments
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
11/16/22 10:11 a.m.

Awesome test and great info!

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
11/16/22 10:37 a.m.

In reply to AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) :

Glad you liked it. We really like being able to offer tests like these–and if there is anything you'd like to see, let us know.

Bigben151
Bigben151 New Reader
11/16/22 11:40 a.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

I want a 245-40-15 re-71rs...lol

Great article once again

Bluebayou22
Bluebayou22 New Reader
11/16/22 1:36 p.m.

Thank you for the great information in an easy to read format!!  Buying the correct set of tires saves alot of money and of course the grip and fun.

EricM
EricM SuperDork
11/16/22 2:56 p.m.

I AM SURPRISED!

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
11/16/22 3:08 p.m.

In reply to EricM :

ASTONISHED, STUNNED AND FLABBERGASTED?

Alright, I'll put the thesaurus down.

JTT
JTT New Reader
11/16/22 5:37 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

I'd be interested in difference to pre-shaved and heat cycled tires of the same make, model and sizes

QuikMcshifterson
QuikMcshifterson New Reader
11/17/22 12:51 p.m.

Absolutely excellent testing and article. I've just picked up the Paul Haney book on tires so great timing too!

More tire testing / articles please!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/18/22 11:22 a.m.
QuikMcshifterson said:

Absolutely excellent testing and article. I've just picked up the Paul Haney book on tires so great timing too!

More tire testing / articles please!

Just for you, more tire tests coming in hot. :) 

MSM_Racer
MSM_Racer GRM+ Member
5/14/23 2:36 p.m.

In reply to Bigben151 :

PLEASE give us better width options in a 15" wheel size!!  

I've reached out to Bridgestone multiple times to ask if/when they're coming out with a 225/45 or 245/40 and haven't received any responses.  They're leaving a lot of sales on the table by not having these sizes.

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