A few months of driving what was supposed to be my track car on a daily basis had morphed me into a masochist. I started seeing discomfort as the price I had to pay for fun.
But one addition made a world of difference. A good set of squishy treadblocks where there weren’t many before helped dampen some of the vibration, noise, and harshness I’d grown accustomed to. This quality helped make my trip from San Francisco to Seattle—14 hours of driving in a fixed bucket with a five-point racing harness — actually quite pleasant.
However, I hadn’t just chosen Toyo’s R1R tire for comfort. Versatility was what drew me to the R1R initially, and it was time to test its mettle on a road course. The venue for this experiment was The Ridge Motorsports Park one sodden Saturday morning.
I’d been to The Ridge before on a dry day with different tires, and then, I’d dealt with a lot of understeer due to not having it aligned. For this trip, I’d tried to neutralize the car with a proper alignment from REV Motorsports. Unfortunately, rusty bolts in the rear lower control arms limited me. I had to run with the 3.5 degrees of rear camber caused simply by lowering the car. Up front, the most negative camber I could manage was a hair under 3 degrees. This meant that the Miata was still prone to exhibit mild understeer in steady-state cornering.
But understeer isn’t always a bad thing. With the road getting wetter and wetter as I drove to the track just outside Olympia, Wash., I felt that this track day would be a near-perfect setting to test the R1R’s versatility. After all, it was just a track day, a low-stress situation to assess the R1R and study my own wet-weather driving more carefully. And in the wet, a setup like this can make it a little easier to charge.
I had to consider the conditions and try to drive with some care. Because it was wet, I was trying to blend inputs less and transfer longitudinal load with a softer touch. Within a couple sessions, I felt genuinely comfortable around the course. With one eye watching out for deep puddles and another for the first signs of a drying line, I started to chisel away at a decent lap with confidence — more than I imagined I would have on only my third trip there and my first time there in the rain.
At this stage, I’d heard complaints in the pits from other drivers about the amount of standing water present in the daunting Turn 1, but all that came as a surprise to me. I simply hadn’t noticed much save for one puddle, and I couldn’t even call that a nuisance.
And not being able to rely on the telltale squeal of a dry tire about to break away, I was operating on the information transmitted through the wheel, the pedals, and my posterior. And there was plenty coming through. This meant I was getting back to throttle far earlier than most of the other runners in my group and many more powerful cars with wider tires were falling behind.
Wet Weather Improvisation
Still, I was confident enough to push progressively. When getting off the brake earlier than comfortable, the rear started to rotate in a pretty serious way. The off-camber Turn 8 and plenty of entry speed made me wince a little. I thought for a second I was en route to the weeds. Thankfully, setting things straight only required a little feathering of the brake.
Due to the confidence the R1R gave me, I was encouraged to try throwing the car around. With a flick of the steering wheel and an abrupt lift of the throttle, I found I could pitch the Miata into these long corners and avoid the frustration of dealing with an uncooperative front axle.
This midcorner oversteer was always fun and fairly predictable, and once the car was “freed up,” planting the throttle and sliding through the latter half of the corner with a few degrees of opposite lock was easy. Best of all, I never felt the heroic buzz that follows a close call—just a milder sort of exhilaration.
When momentum wasn’t carrying the car forward—like in Turn 11 and the other slow hairpins, putting the power down more aggressively than ideal was not frightening. A slight slip, a little feathering of the throttle, and the Miata moved sideways while generating forward thrust. I couldn’t help but giggle and pat the steering wheel approvingly after carving these angles.
The track had its puddles, but only one was located at the apex of the flat-out-in-fourth Turn 9. Initially, I tried to avoid the puddle altogether, but I eventually increased my speed and, feeling confident, I figured I could delay my turn-in point to straight-line the puddle.
This way, if my car started sliding, at least I wouldn’t be loading it too heavily, and aquaplaning would be minimal. Fortunately, this never happened.
A large part of this predictability in standing water is due to the R1R’s symmetrical directional grooves. These cross each other in several places, allowing at least two grooves to clear water at any time. Compared to the other 200 TW tires with long, uninterrupted bands running linear around the circumference, the R1R is twice the water pump.
Drying at the End of the Day
After lunch, the skies cleared and the sun started to dry the circuit. Plenty of cars helped the dry line appear within the course of a section. Still, moving around and trying minor alterations in the line meant, inevitably, a little line-crossing was in order. Fortunately, hopping from wet to dry lines at decently high speeds was never startling.
The one downside was that the drying surface exacerbated the understeer, which had been minimized somewhat by the rain and its tendency to help rotation. With much more grip available and my Miata’s bias toward understeer during steady state cornering, I found I wasn’t able to “pitch” the car into longer corners — consistently, anyway.
Because of all those tread blocks squirming under the greater loads and the higher void-to-tread ratio, the R1Rs did get hotter faster than the Maxxis Victra VR1s I’d used previously, and I started having to manage the understeer a little more as the session went on. Eventually, this plateaued and the R1R never fell on its face — a fact I had confirmed by a friend and racer who swears by these tires for endurance racing. TREC racers may want to take note because the R1R is now available in a 200 treadwear rating. Imagine not having to swap tires when rain starts to fall.
Perhaps the greatest compliment I could pay this tire is that it never stretched me thin. In fact, I left feeling fresher than I did when I arrived that morning. It’d been a rough week leading up to that track day, and had the R1R been harsher, it might’ve robbed me of the last bit of energy I had.
Some rubber has a fickle character that saps a driver’s energy over the course of a track day, but this tire wasn’t like that. Though the R1R wasn’t ultimately as sticky in the dry as the 100TWs I’d tried previously, I never felt that it was lacking much in the adhesion department.
That said, if pace is all-important and there’s a chance of rain, perhaps bringing two sets of tires to your next track day is the wise way to go. However, if you’re not concerned with setting a personal best, the R1R is worth considering, whether it’s for TREC racing or HPDE. It’s a tire that will allow you to work on your craft while minimizing headache and stress. Unlike many tires, it is a constant rather than a variable.