Let’s face it: you really can’t experience the full functionality of your street tires on the street. To get an idea of how well your tires will perform, one option is to attend an “Open Track Day“. These events allow enthusiasts the opportunity to take their own car out on the racetrack and drive it the way it’s intended to be driven: fast and hard. While some group levels limit passing to certain areas of the track, it’s a safe and exciting way to put your street tires to the ultimate test for handling and grip without worrying about tickets or other drivers in your lane.
One of our favorite tracks has been Willow Springs International Raceway (WSIR) where we’ve taken our own Project Track Attack Belvedere out on a few occasions. Our very first track event was after we installed Hellwig sway bars, with the Plymouth wearing a set of Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/T tires.
The Sportsman S/T isn’t a racing tire, it’s a street tire for musclecars. But you know the saying: “run what you brung”, and we brought our Plymouth to the track to see what it was capable of. After surprising a Porsche in the big sweeper, we were rather impressed with the way the tires performed. But we knew that if we really wanted to get the best performance at the track we needed more suspension upgrades and a low-profile tire that was more suited for spirited driving.
We decided to step it up a notch and upgraded our Plymouth with more suspension goodies and bigger brakes. We also upgraded from the 15-inch steel wheels to 18-inch Weld Racing wheels, and that meant a new tire combination. We returned to Mickey Thompson and installed a set of Street Comp tires to wrap around our new wheels. We installed 245/40R18 in the front and 275/40R18 in the rear, and then we hit the track again with the goal of improving our lap times.
With our additional mods and the new Street Comp tires, we’ve since taken about seven seconds off of our original lap time; that’s pretty good for a 50-year-old car with OE style suspension and a street tire. The Street Comp is rated at 300 treadwear, which makes it a good, all-around tire for both street and performance driving. While many Pro-Touring and autocross competitions limit tires to a softer 200 treadwear, Mickey Thompson wanted to keep the slightly higher rating for better mileage.
It’s not unusual for a road racer to go through a set of tires in a couple weekends of racing with the softer compound. The lower the treadwear – the quicker the tire will wear out, and some performance cars today come with a 200-220 treadwear right from the factory. The Street Comp, however, is a great tire for a daily driver and occasional track use, and has suited us very well this past year.
Out on the track with our Street Comp tires, we not only improved our lap times but we were able to keep up with cars that technically should have carved the corners far better than we did. We pushed the car pretty hard, but never lost traction and managed to leave a few drivers wondering what was making the old B-body handle so well. Some of the cars we were able to keep up with included modern Mustangs, Corvettes, Porsches, and even a Ferrari.
Granted, some might say that it has more to do with driver skill than the car or the tire, but you wouldn’t think a 50-year old sedan could keep up with a C7 Corvette on any part of the track. Willy Woo, Advertising Coordinator for Mickey Thompson, has said, “The Street Comp is a very stealthy tire. People are surprised at how well it performs.” We were included in that list of surprised people.
Treadwear Rating And Tire Wear
When you look at high mileage tires, many will have 400+ treadwear so that vehicle owners can get the most mileage out of a set of tires. Performance cars, however, are not expected to go 80,000 miles on a set of tires because they’re typically driven much harder than the family minivan or grandma’s Buick. It’s a trade off: higher mileage means less grip, more grip means lower mileage. The Street Comp, however, is the best of both worlds providing us good mileage with plenty of grip at the track.
To give you an idea about treadwear, a track-only tire for racing and autocross can have a treadwear rating as low as 40 and will stick to the track like glue, while an all-season passenger car high-mileage tire can be rated at 600 – providing far less traction. As you can see, there’s a huge difference in the treadwear rating between a race tire and a high mileage tire, and there will be a noticeable difference in the tire profile, aspect ratio, and longevity of the tire itself. For us, having a tire that can stay on the car for the four-hour round trip to the track and two full days of racing – well, that’s just a recipe for success.
If you’re looking for a stealthy tire to get the best of both worlds, check out the Mickey Thompson Street Comp. It’s available in many sizes for modern sports cars, with diameters from 17- to 20-inches, and widths to fit modern musclecars like the Mustang and Camaro. You can check out the Street Comp at the Mickey Thompson website, and learn even more about their wide range of street, performance – and even off-road tires – from their YouTube page.