New legislation on tyre labelling and accompanying minimum standards to be introduced simultaneously in November 2012 will effectively end the production of road-legal trackday tyres. Tyres likely to be axed include the Dunlop Direzza, Toyo 888 (currently available on the Renaultsport Mégane R26.R), Michelin Pilot Sport Cup (Porsche GT3 and GT2) and Avon ACB10 (Caterham), along with a host of others.
The aim of the new regulations is to both raise all-round performance standards and to give buyers a greater understanding of the performance and environmental impact of each particular tyre before purchase. All road-legal tyres will have to display rating figures for rolling resistance (fuel efficiency), external noise and wet grip, and while the rating system and minimum levels have yet to be set, it is unlikely that track-biased tyres will be able to pass on all counts.
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Tyre manufacturers are currently lobbying the European Parliament, but it will be very difficult for them to make a successful argument for tyres that allow drivers to corner faster in the dry but which offer a significantly lower level of performance the moment the surface becomes damp.
It is expected that trackday tyres will fall foul of the other parameters too, so their demise is something their manufacturers are already preparing for. James Bailey, Dunlop’s PR chief, believes it highly unlikely that trackday tyres will continue in their current form, although the company’s official position is that these regulations are positive as they will also remove poor performing cheap road tyres from the market. In its own braking tests the difference between the best and worst tyres fitted to a Mondeo stopping from 50mph on a wet surface was as much as five car lengths…
Porsche feels it’s too early to comment and that at this stage it is still a matter for the tyre companies. Once the regulations have been set, the German car maker will still request an appropriate level of performance from Michelin for its top models.
So what does the future hold? There will still be high-performance tyres made from a race-style compound though they are likely to have regular road-car tread patterns. However, they won’t be as fast or responsive as the current crop of trackday tyres, and for those of us who enjoy the extra performance and challenge presented by this specialist rubber that’s a real shame.