At face value, this seems like a trick question. In a race setting, of course racing slicks would offer the best grip versus a road-legal track tyre. Thing is, racing slicks are designed for race cars. Your average road-going car, even one with some performance DNA, doesn't operate at the same level. It's like dumping racing fuel into the tank of your daily driven muscle car. Unless the car is tuned to use it, the expensive fuel is just wasted.
That's what makes this new video from Tyre Reviews so interesting. Anyone who attends track days or autocross events with a street car is well aware of the tremendous difference between street tyres and track tyres. The real question is whether street cars – where comfort and everyday practicality still outweigh performance – experience a similar level of improvement from track tyres to dedicated slicks. To find out, tyre guru Jonathan Benson turned to Hyundai and Pirelli for help.
With a performance-oriented suspension and 276 bhp going to the front wheels, the i30 N is a capable hot hatch that can easily exceed the limits of its street tyres. Benson exercised the Hyundai for the better part of a day, cycling through four sets of 18-inch Pirelli tyres starting with P Zero ultra-high-performance street rubber. Next up was a set of P Zero Trofeo R road-legal track tyres, followed by not one but two sets of Pirelli hard compound racing slicks. The first set was designed for use on the front of Ferrari cup cars, with the second designed specifically for front-wheel-drive race cars. Was there a difference?
In short, bloody yes there was. Starting with a lap time of 1:38.02 on street tyres, the time fell to 1:34.81 on the track tyres, with Benson confirming much-improved mid-corner grip. However, the Ferrari-focused slicks cut another 2.48 seconds off the track tyres, with the i30 N clocking a 1:32.33. Switching to the front-wheel-drive racing slicks was only slightly better, returning a 1:31.79.
Gallery: Hyundai i30 N (2020)
Honestly, some improvement was expected but two and a half seconds is a lifetime on a race track. On a car as modest as the i30 N, it's a very impressive test and it shows that, even without a hardcore suspension setup, pure slicks are absolutely the best tyre choice for ultimate grip at the track.
In the dry, anyway.