Toyo’s new R888R will replace the R888.

Toyo Tires offers comparison test drives in cars with its new R888R and its outgoing R888.

There’s a special feeling waking up knowing that in a few hours you’ll be driving a Lamborghini or McLaren on a purpose-built road course. That feeling grows as you pass the billboards advertising your destination: Las Vegas Speedway.

Toyo picked up the tab for journalists and VIPs to experience the capabilities of its new R888R. The established “r-triple-eight,” upon which the R888R is based, is a staple in the paddock of any NASA weekend. HPDE drivers, time trialers and racers alike appreciate the consistent performance, long life and economic benefits of this competition DOT tire.

The official word from Toyo is that these tires are “For racing purposes only. Not for highway use,” but that doesn’t seem to stop people from driving to the track on these tires, on the track and then back home again. With more grooves and voids than a Hoosier R7 or BFG R1, being caught in a light rain is less of a concern on road or track. That said, avoid standing water!

The new R888R has 10 percent more contact patch in a straight line and 15 percent more surface contact in the corners compared with the outgoing tire. Toyo touts the improved low-temperature performance of the R888R, so you don’t need to be running hot laps to appreciate the higher grip available. If you do push it, you’ll want to stay in the optimal temperature range of 160 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fans of the R888 may be disappointed to hear that tire will be discontinued. However, I can assure you that the R888R is a worthy replacement. Furthermore, we can expect to have a greater selection of tires, particularly in the wider sizes common on high-horsepower muscle cars and exotics. Toyo will continue to add sizes to the catalog as adoption and production of the R888R ramp up throughout the year. Drivers who want to keep their cars more track-focused will find the R888R a more-than suitable replacement for their factory-installed tires.

The rubber compound remains the same between the R888 and the R888R, but the latter benefits from more rigid belt construction, which translates to quicker, more precise turn-in. Toyo switched from a symmetrical, directional tread pattern to an asymmetrical, nondirectional design. This produces that larger contact patch with smaller grooves on the inside tread to improve grip in braking and accelerating while larger tread blocks on the outside edge produce greater cornering force. Two continuous center bands provide maximum grip in braking while a central circumferential groove reduces the likelihood of hydroplaning.

At the track, we were given a briefing on the new features of the R888R and then we were brought out to the pits where two examples of three exotics awaited us: a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 Coupe, Audi R8 V10 and McLaren 570S. I was led to a black Lamborghini for a baseline test of the R888 before testing the R888R mounted on another Gallardo. Both cars were fitted with 235/35ZR19 at the front and 305/30ZR19 at the rear. The first run highlighted the Gallardo’s characteristic understeer. Overall grip was impressive when turning-in smoothly and progressively. Powering out of corners required late turn-in and patience with the power to avoid throttle intervention from the traction control. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to switch off the safety systems.

The R888 benefits from smoother inputs and maintaining momentum through the corners to compensate for lack of front grip when putting power down at exit. The R888R rewards blending steering with braking and throttle application to take advantage of the balanced front and rear grip.

The R888R feels like a very different tire. The improved response from initial turn-in is evident from the first corner. Both tires benefit from trail braking and the new tire inspires more confidence in carrying the brakes deeper into the corner. The biggest differentiator is under power where the increase in front grip leads to more balanced handling overall. Furthermore, I was amazed at how well the car pulls out of the corners while steering with the throttle. The rear hooks up with very predictable rotation, more slip angle than actually sliding.

Whereas the R888 mounted car would tend to run wide at corner exit, the R888R equipped car just kept tracking on-line. Any understeer and subsequent traction intervention was nonexistent with these R888Rs. The difference was so shocking that I was prompted to check the hot tire pressures to verify parity of test conditions. Sure enough I found 40 psi front and 39 psi rear on both cars.

The AiM Solo DL data show the areas where time was gained as well as the difference in driving styles afforded by these two tires. The R888 benefits from smoother inputs and maintaining momentum through the corners to compensate for lack of front grip when putting power down at the exit. The R888R, on the other hand, rewards blending steering with braking and throttle application to take advantage of the balanced grip front and rear. Lap times with the R888 consistently averaged 56.5 seconds on the 1.2-mile course while the R888R cut over 2 seconds off with 54.3 seconds average. Being able to disable the traction control would have changed the results for the established R888. However, my seat-of-the-pants dyno suggests the R888R would still have the advantage. In fact, Toyo has observed consistent 1 percent gains throughout various test applications. This may not seem like much, but in other terms that’s a full second over a 1:40 lap time.

There are worse ways to spend a weekday than hustling an exotic sports car around a track. The icing on the cake came from seeing how a set of tires can transform the character of an enjoyable although subdued drive to a vehicle with a more aggressive attitude, one that inspires confidence and encourages the driver to push harder. The greatest satisfaction comes from unleashing all 550 hp through the rear tires at corner exit to feel the car launch forward with total control.

I asked the organizers to let me keep driving to test the durability of the new tires, but all good things must end. Fortunately, there is more to enjoy right around the corner, as is the case with these new R888Rs.

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Image courtesy of Toyo Tir