Nate's Corner, tracking your Corvette part. 1

What Do You Need To Track Your Car or Corvette? Series, Part 1 As track days get more and more popular, as well as affordable, more car owners are taking their Corvettes out to see what they can do. It is quite an experience to be able to drive around a race track and truly feel the capabilities of your sports car. At the same time, despite how fun a track day may sound, many owners may be intimidated thinking that either their car doesn't have the necessary mods to perform at the track or that they may not have the necessary driving skills. In this series of blogs, we'll briefly talk about what you and your car may or may not need to be ready for a track day. First let's talk about the biggest most important mod, the driver mod. That's right, YOU. What experience level do you need to do a track day? Zero. Most track day organizations have beginner groups with instructors specifically setup to help those who may never have been on a race track before. Most track days for all drivers of any experience level, will start with a drivers meeting. The instructor will usually spend more time here with the beginners teaching them the ins and outs of the track and track rules. They'll discuss things like what certain flags mean and what to do in case of emergencies. Once on the track, beginners may begin with a lead/follow lap so they can learn the track. After this, instructors are usually available to ride along help teach all drivers. Drivers in the beginner group, or any group, are usually only be allowed to drive within their group so all cars maintain a relatively similar pace while on the track. So, don't be scared to not have experience. You won't be Senna out there anyway so just sign up and be ready to have fun learning your car. So, let's now discuss what your car may need to do a track day. Technically the answer is, as long as the car has been well maintained and in good mechanical order, nothing. Remember, we are talking about a HPDE, high performance driving event, not a wheel to wheel race. Also if you're a beginner, you're probably not going to drive the car to its peak limits. You just won't be fast enough from the get go plus most modern sports cars, like Corvettes, come well equipped from the factory with high performance parts that can usually handle some light track duty. Now of course, not all stock components are going to be happy getting beaten around the track and as you get faster you will start to see where the car will need improvement, in either adjustments needed or better performing parts. So, lets briefly touch on the three main areas you may want to improve in order to get the most out of your car on the track. Tires, brakes and suspension alignment. In today’s blog we’ll start off with TIRES. Tires will make the biggest improvement in a cars handling abilities. With so many choices of tires out there, choosing the right set for your needs may seem like a challenge. Now, before getting into brands of tires and which is better than the other, we'll keep it simple. For starters, the street tires that come stock on most cars are usually too hard to the race track and not designed to handle higher temps. Also their harder rubber compounds will have limited grip under track day conditions. However, many modern sports cars like Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs and many others come with some pretty decent sticky rubber nowadays since these manufacturers know that customers will take their cars to the track. But let's say your car is a bit older or you’re running some regular street tires. Well, naturally what you will want is a stickier tire. One of the easiest ways to tell if a tire is "stickier" than the average street tire is by looking at its treadwear rating. The lower the number the more grip the tire should offer. It also means the tire will wear faster. The most popular treadwear rating for a good street/track tire is 200. You'll find many great offerings from tire companies in this treadwear category. These tires usually handle some street driving just fine yet offer race tire like grip when at the proper temperature. A 300-100 treadwear tire will usually cover the needs of most track day goers of various experience levels. There are some tires under a 100 treadwear that offer even more grip but sacrifice longevity big time. Lower than 100-80 treadwear and you're looking at basically slicks. If you're just beginning, there's quite a few other things to do before you'll need to get that sticky of a tire. So, look for a 300-100 treadwear tire in your stock tire sizes that's popular with track goers of your specific vehicle. Also keep in mind that you will have to play around with tire pressures to find out where the tire performs and wears the best. Driving around a race track builds up heat in tires very quickly so don’t be surprised if you need to start with a cold pressure that is 8 or even 10psi below your hot pressure target. Keep track temps and conditions in mind as well. Every tire is different but from what I’ve seen with the majority of the popular track day tires out there for Corvettes, 32psi HOT seems to be a good place to start. So aim for that and adjust as needed. Now, ok, I said I wouldn’t get specific with naming tire brands but here are two “sticky” tires that are popular with Corvette track enthusiasts. First is the Nitto NT-01. The Nitto has proven to be an affordable track day tire that many drivers like because it reaches max grip very quickly without needing too much heat. They also remain consistent for most of their life but can suddenly drop off in performance after too many heat cycles. They also don’t last very long on the street in case you’re considering them for double duty. They have a treadwear rating of 100 and a W speed rating (160mph). The next tire, that is also one of the most popular choices amongst all types of sports and super car owners is the Toyo R888R. They also happen to be my personal choice. The R888R tires offers tons of grip. The grip comes on quickly however they do need to be at the proper pressures and temp to be maximized. Any tire does but the Toyos can be a bit picky in this area. However, they are known to have good longevity on and off the track being able to handle multiple heat cycles. They have a treadwear rating of 100 and a Y speed rating (186+mph), at least the bigger sizes do of 18” an up. The speed rating of these tires can come to play for those who may be participating in high speed events such as half mile or mile racing. Many sanctioning bodies will not let you exceed the speed rating of your tires. Keep in mind that even a base model LS3 C6 can achieve 190mph, so choose your tire accordingly to the use that it will be seeing. And with that, those are my two suggestions of track day tires for Corvettes. Yes there are many other options out there and good ones, but this is a blog and not a full tire review. Now that you’ve decided to hit the track, sign up for a track day and have chosen a tire to go with, don’t forget you’re going to need to able to stop that LS powered missile. So next episode we’ll cover the braking system. What do you need to upgrade, if anything? And, do you really need a big brake kit to go racing? We’ll see so stay tuned. -Nate

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