Selecting the right tire for your car can make a substantial difference in your autocross times. Before you run out and purchase a set of autocross race tires, there a few things you need to consider. The first item is how much seat time and experience you currently have. If you’re new to autocrossing, save your money and focus on learning how to become a better driver before purchasing race tires. The next important item is to determine what type of tires are allowed in the class you will be racing in. For some classes, the rules only permit a true street tire versus an R compound tire.
What is an R compound tire? Many racing classes began requiring tires to be DOT approved street tires, and as a result manufactures began making tires that met DOT approval but are from being a typical street tire. Instead these tires are made with little tread and utilize a soft rubber compound which becomes quite sticky yielding a significant amount of grip. In the tire picture shown on this page, you can see just how little “tread” there truly is on an autocross DOT approved race tire. Some racing classes instituted a minimum tread wear rating to prevent these types of tires from being.
If you decide to purchase R compound autocross race tires, beware that there are often two compound types – one for road racing (a harder compound) and one for autocrossing (softer compound). The softer compound gets to optimum temperature and grip much faster than the road race tire.
When your existing street tires reach a point where they need to be replaced, take some time to research what tires best suit your goals and budget.