The logic behind the racing slick tyre is a simple one: by eliminating any sort of groove or tread in the tyre, you are able to create a larger contact patch to grip the pavement. That means harder cornering, a better grip, and a faster car. But the use of these tyres is a more complex proposition than that. Slicks, as your Melbourne tyre experts call them, are different.
These tyres are very unsuitable for any manner of wet environment. That is one of the reasons that true slicks are not legal for road use: when it rains, these tires are unable to expel water from the contact patch. This leads to hydroplaning, which causes a severe loss of traction. Ayrton Senna was infamous for refusing to change his tyre selection in Formula One, when all of his competitors had pitted, saying he enjoyed the challenge.
However, while they may not be a good choice in the wet, slicks have other advantages beyond the contact patch. Their lack of a tread pattern means they don’t warp under load, allowing for softer rubber to be used in their construction. This, in turn, reduces the life of the tyre – your average Formula One race car will go through several full sets in a race – but this malleable, soft rubber is able to stick to the pavement like fly paper.
This sort of tyre has its peak in drag car racing. Here, the driving wheels are fitted with slicks of a particular speciality: they are built with ‘wrinklewall’ slicks, which allow the sidewall to be twisted and ‘torqued’ by the engine’s power at launch, reducing the odds of wheel spin. As speed builds, the centrifugal force of the spinning wheels expands the wheel, increasing the gear ratio of the car.
As your Melbourne tyre experts, we can tell you, there is often more to your rubber than meets the eye.
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