Having fun with a car often brings danger to the driver and other traffic participants. This is the case even on the track, where high-speed driving can become extremely dangerous to the driver, especially if he/she is inexperienced. Happily, there is a competition where you can have a lot of fun while driving and be (almost) completely safe at the same time and it is called autocross.
This is a type of competitive driving that takes part in an open area, where traffic cones are used to create a mini course. Often, these courses are very technical, with a lot of corners and tight spaces, so precision is the king here. That’s why you will often see economy cars driving autocross and winning. Engine power is not only superfluous here, but it can create problems due to limited grip and traction. Sure, there are some autocross events that have a course built for higher speeds, but generally, they are as tight as they can be.
If you’re into precision and technical driving, or you want to learn driving like a real master driver, autocross is the right place to start. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just start your car and travel to some event. Whatever the vehicle you have, you should prepare it first, and the best way to start is with the tires.
In this article, I am going to talk about the best autocross tires. The problem is, you can’t just go online and buy an autocross tire because they don’t exist. Autocross is still a limited sport, and tire companies usually don’t have an interest in small series production. That said, there are high-performance sport tires that are extremely well suited to autocross driving, due to their amazing grip.
This means that in this article you can find the best summer high-performance tires, that are especially great for small courses and tight corners. The grip is the most important factor here, remember. This means that in the list I will include “slick” tires that can only be driven on a closed course, and not on the street, but there will be models that can do both kinds of stuff pretty well. Apart from making a Top 5 list of the best autocross tires, I will also write a short buying guide so you can choose the best possible tires for your autocross vehicle.
Top 5 Best Autocross Tires
Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R
Best overall autocross tires
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If you look for a tire that can extract the best possible cornering speeds from your autocross vehicle and one that can also be driven on the street, then look no further than the extreme-performance Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R. A set of these tires will give you the best possible performance on a small and tight course, excellent control behind the wheel, and it will be easily controllable at the limit. This tire once again shows why the Potenza family of tires is one of the most popular in the high-performance and extreme performance categories.
Even when you look at the Potenza RE-71R, you can see that it means business. The directional tread design and a newly developed tread compound enhance grip by increasing contact with the surface, while the continuous center rib and massive shoulders provide constant contact of the rubber with the surface. Even though the Potenza RE-71R is primarily meant to be used in dry and warm conditions, it can still provide the driver with good traction in damp conditions, thanks to the hydro-evacuation surface ridges and multi-angle 7-shaped lateral grooves. That said, you should absolutely not use these tires in heavy rain, as they can’t resist hydroplaning like a good rain tire.
But, you probably won’t need these tires in heavy rain and only use them in dry conditions on the autocross circuit. If you do that, you will be rewarded with a driving experience unlike any other extreme performance tire out there. And yes, I know that they’re expensive, but if you are losing on the autocross course by a fraction of second, maybe these Potenza’s will give you the boost for a win.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2
Best grip autocross tire
As in almost every list of the best tires I make, the fight for the first position here is also between the Pilot Sport Cup 2. This tire is so closely matched to the Potenza RE-71R that most drivers won’t notice the difference, but in my opinion, the Bridgestone wins thanks to the lower price (albeit a bit lower performance too). That said, if you find a Pilot Sport Cup 2 in your area at an acceptable price, go for this one. You will certainly not be disappointed!
The Pilot Sport Cup 2 is equipped with Michelin’s Bi-Compound technology and unlike the Potenza, has asymmetric tread design. But let’s get back to the Bi-Compound for a second because it is a very interesting solution – there are two different rubber compounds for the outboard and inboard regions of the tread, for a combination of precise steering and amazing grip in tight corners. And this thing works – the Pilot Sport Cup 2 is absolutely one of the grippiest and easy to drive tires in the category.
Other than the Bi-Compound, this tire features the Variable Contact Patch 3.0 technology, that optimizes the tire footprint so that it has superior grip even in tight corners. Just like an autocross driver would want and need. Add to that the spirally wound Twaron cord that is both lightweight and strong, and you have a tire that keeps its shape even when driven to the maximum.
When you put all these technologies into perspective, it is no coincidence that the Pilot Sport Cup 2 is installed as original equipment in vehicles such as the Ferrari 458 Speciale and the Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid hypercar. It is simply outstanding. That said, the price is still a bit high and can be a big hurdle to overcome for some people.
Hankook Ventus Z214
Best professional autocross tire
If you are serious about competing in autocross, then the best choice is a proper racing tire like the Hankook Ventus Z214. This tire can’t be used on the street and that’s why I haven’t put it on the first place on this list, but if you look only at performance numbers, it will crash both the Bridgestone and the Michelin. A serious tire for serious autocross drivers.
Hankook even designed this tire as an autocross one, which is not something you often see in this category. That’s especially true for the C71/Soft compound model, which can give the driver amazing grip in tight corners – the car will be glued to the road. For those who want a better compound for the race track, there is the C51/Medium compound model. The best grip can be attained with the C91/Very soft compound, but sadly this one is only available in 275/35R18 dimensions.
With all that said, even at first glance you can see that the Ventus Z214 is a professional tire, thanks to the semi-slick compound. This design will transform your vehicle into a corner-eating machine, with grip levels that defy common sense. You can feel this behind the steering wheel as well, thanks to the precise input and excellent feedback. That said, due to the nature of this tire, it can only be driven in dry and damp conditions. It will not only struggle in wet or extremely wet conditions – it can become unsafe.
The price of the Ventus Z214 can also be high for some people, especially because you need to have another set of tires lying around for driving on the street.
Continental ExtremeContact DWS06
Best rain autocross tires
Autocross is best enjoyed in warm and dry conditions, so that’s why most tires on this list are specifically made for that kind of usage. However, there are times where you may need tires that play better in the rain, or for example, you live in an area with a lot of rain. For you, the best tire is the Continental ExtremeContact DWS06. This is not only a high-performance all-season tire that works amazingly well in dry conditions, like for example on the autocross circuit, but it is also very well-suited to damp wet and extremely wet conditions.
The ExtremeContact DWS06 are not just great in the rain, they are one of the best tires for rainy conditions, period. With a set of these tires, you can forget about hydroplaning in very wet conditions, and tire slipping in slightly wet or damp conditions. In my testing, this tire is simply amazing in the wet. It is also capable of tackling some snow, something that you can’t even think of doing with the other tires on this list. Dry handling is also very good – on the level of other high-performance tires out there. In other words, a tire that will work in every possible condition you encounter, which in my book is always a winner.
Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 R
Best budget autocross tires
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Specialized extreme-performance summer tires often cost a fortune, but fortunately that’s not the case with the Yokohama Advan AD08 R. A set of these tires will cost you less than almost any other models in this list, which is great news for those who seek great performance at a lower price point, or drivers who are just starting with the autocross craze.
The best thing about the Advan AD08 R is that you don’t lose on performance a lot, thanks to the tread compound enriched with carbon for dry grip. This is a serious extreme-performance summer tire that will give you extremely high levels of grip on the autocross circuit. It is also very controllable at the limit and provides the driver with precise input and control. While not primarily designed to be used in wet conditions, thanks to the Micro Silica compound and directional tread, the Advan AD08 R is surprisingly good in damp conditions.
While durability is not something you think of when buying autocross tires, for a piece of mind the Advan AD08 R is equipped with Macromolecule polymer for increased rigidity and resistance to wear.
Something you need to know about autocross tires
As you can probably understand from the list above, extreme-performance and high-performance tires are the best bet for a vehicle that will be driven on an autocross course. Even though the list contains only five tires, this means that you should be satisfied with a lot of other extreme-performance tires from reputable manufacturers, such as Pirelli, Good Year, Falken, BFGoodrich, Toyo, Dunlop, Nitto etc.
Whatever the model you choose, be sure that you get a softer version. Generally, the harder the compound, the better the tire is for high-speed driving, and vice-versa. In autocross, you will mostly be driving at legal speeds, which means that you should get a softer compound. In my opinion, a soft compound is the way to go, but you can also have good times with super soft or medium compound.
Then, you should choose the right tread design. There are extreme-performance models available from manufacturers that come with almost the same compound but are available in different tread designs. Those with almost no tread are mostly made for use on an autocross course, while those that have a bit of tread can also be used on the street. Anyway, it is always best to check in the information provided by the manufacturer if the tire can be driven on the street or not. For example, some semi-slick and every slick tire out there can’t be driven on the street.
If you only use your autocross tires for a competition, it is best to store them in places with room temperature – not too cold, and not too soft. Manufacturers often state what’s the best temperature for storage, and also the best pressure (if stored together with the rims). Be sure to always follow those instructions, or otherwise, the tires might get damaged.
Autocross driving has never been easier than it is today. Modern vehicles are extremely well equipped for precision handling, strong braking and high levels of grip, while you can almost not find an extreme-performance tire that will not fit the bill performance-wise. In other words, even a small budget can get you on the field, competing with other drivers. If you’re still not sure, the top 5 list best autocross tires provided here should be a good starting point!