For the record, you won't be stopping by your typical wheel store to buy a set of Pirelli Sottozero WRC studded tyres. Perhaps you can nab a set from a motorsports dealership for around £2,000, but even then, the studs used in World Rally Championship racing likely aren't allowed on the roads in your neighbourhood. You'll have to settle for a set of Pirelli Ice Zero tyres for around £600, fitted with kinder, gentler studs.
But what if you could run those skinny WRC tyres in the snow? That's a question Jonathan Benson answers – rather gleefully at that – in his latest tyre test video. Is it scientific? Not really. Does it offer a plethora of real-world information for tyre shoppers? Not so much, other than to demonstrate just how good studded road tyres are in icy conditions. We know Benson is exceptionally thorough when it comes to tyre tests, but this time, it's all about shock and awe.
Watching WRC rally cars literally carving corners on icy stages is one thing. Clearly, the specialty tyres are designed for maximum performance in winter conditions. But to give it all some context, Benson evaluates Pirelli's WRC tyres next to a set of studded Ice Zero 2s. Naturally, the race tyres will provide better grip, especially on ice. But will they make a big difference in snow traction?
In a word, yes. In Benson's words, fricken insane.
Driving an older rally-prepped Subaru WRX, he clocks a best snow-course lap time of 1:07 on the Pirelli road-spec tyres. However, the Sottozero WRCs cuts the time to 59 seconds – 8 seconds quicker for the skinny, high-profile tyres in conditions where the studs don't really matter. The lateral performance of the WRC tyres is particularly impressive, leading Benson to say he's had less grip on some tyres in dry conditions.
On ice, the WRC tyres simply live in another universe. Compared to the Ice Zero 2 studded road tyres – which Benson praises as extremely good – the Sottozeros were 17.9 seconds quicker on an ice lap. It's worth mentioning the course consisted of smooth ice, making for an extremely slippery surface. It's an eye-opening contrast to say the least.
Wherever your new year travels take you, stay safe on the roads and be mindful of your tyres. All-wheel drive can help you accelerate in slippery conditions, but turning and stopping are important, too.