Anyone who has road raced, auto crossed or even been a fan of them knows all too well the accolades given to the Toyo RA1. This prolific DOT race tire has had millions of miles logged on it and been the spec-tire for many racing series. However, Toyo decided that the time had come to start developing a new DOT R-compound that would meet or exceed the RA1 capabilities. A tire that would wear slower and be more livable on the street for those that chose to drive to and from their favorite circuit.
We contacted Ron Golab, VP of Toyo Canada to hook up a set of tires for one of our project cars. Golab responded quickly by shipping down a set to the Toyo Ontario office where were proceed to cram them inside a borrowed 2008 Nissan GT-R. We didn’t think it was possible but we made it happen with some persuasion. With that, we shuffled the tires over to our storage facility where the track beast was lurking, a 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R cranking out 450hp. We promptly mounted up the tires on a set of forged 18x10-inch Enkei wheels and headed to Toronto Motorsports Park (TMP) in the morning.
After we put a last minute call-out for free track time. Our PRN associates brought out some serious hardware a pair of 911s (one turbo, one 40th anniversary), an BMW M3, ’08 Subaru STi, turbo 350Z, Supra-powered Lexus SC300 and a Ford Mustang Bullitt. What they didn’t know is we only wanted them around for photo opportunities while outrunning them while tearing up TMP on the R888. This 3.0km track located in Cayuga, ON lacks fun elevation changes but has great chicanes and twisties with a couple long straights to hit 4th gear in.
The track conditions were ideal. Crisp cool air 24ºC (74 ºF) and a track surface slightly warmer would mean more power for the twin turbos on the Skyline and more grip for the R888. We brought a laser temperature gauge to ensure that the tires would be performing at optimal temperatures.
The R888 Delivers
The latest R-compound offering from Toyo received immediate hype without much marketing at all. As the rumored successor to the staple of racing everywhere, the RA1, the new R888 looks more aggressive and was billed by Toyo as being every bit as capable as the RA1 but with improved street-ability and braking. Since we are one of the thousands of racers out there that offer a testimonial for the RA1s, we knew this design would be beyond expectations.
Although, we know were not really supposed to, the Skyline runs R-Compounds on the street. The only real caveat of running the new 275/35R18 R888s as dailies is the noise. They have a fairly audible hum above 80km/h (50mph) as the air rushes out of the V-shaped flutes and sipes. Surprisingly, the R888s don’t ride as harsh as they sound while they easily navigated the crumbling streets of Toronto. With the suspension on soft settings, the R888 is fairly forgiving and on the smooth rural roads to the test track, it felt similar to any other Ultra High Performance (UHP) tire. The wet control has been improved with the V-shape being able to channel away water effectively and we experienced no hydroplaning while driving around in wet conditions.
As a testament to its versatility, this DOT approved competition radial is the new spec tire for the Castrol Canadian Touring Car Championships and next year will be the tire for the SCCA Spec Miata series. With 6/32-inch of tread, the R888 can run around the streets and there is no need to roll up with a set of filthy R-comps riding shotgun to ruin your interior. The large blocks on the R888 allow it stay cooler under extreme conditions yet maintain maximum contact patch. Best of all, this directional tire can run some silly camber up to 5.0º so we will be getting more serious with our next alignment. We had enough camber though to ensure the tire would not roll over too much but as it does, it makes contact with the grippy semi-slick shoulder. The shoulder really provided precise turn-in aided by super stiff R888 sidewalls. The sidewalls have been reinforced with steel wire and allowed cornering force according to our V-Box performance meter to be in excess of 1.1g although we know there is a bit more left in it with proper setup.
After some warm up laps, we pulled the car in quick to get some temp readings. Tire was up to temp, adrenaline was flowing and it was time to rip up the straight into turn one. At wide-open throttle, the GT-R can reach almost 200km/h on this straight and dive into turn one in 3rd gear and lay on the throttle 100% early in the apex. The R888s were not having any issues with the capabilities of the car through this section. Under heavy braking, the car remained stable and straight, any floating sensation could be attributed to uneven track surfaces. Through the tight radius turns, the tires did not allow understeer and held their ground, although not without some squealing protest. Through the chicane we hammered the rumble strips and the tire absorbed the impact without causing any instability in the tire. After several hot laps, the oil temp in the Skyline starts really getting up there with the lack of oil cooler. So the car was ready to come in well before the tires were, we stopped in and checked on the temp of the tires and brakes. Average tire temp was 86ºC, caliper was 125ºC and the rotors were 180ºC.
As the day wrapped up, we pulled in to inspect what one day of tracking the R888 does to the rubber compound. It was definitely noticeable that they were well used as the rubber balled up slightly in the center of the tire and the edges of the flutes were slightly up-turned. We assumed the distant cousin, Nitto NT01 had the same silica compound next to the R888 with the same UTQG rating of ‘100 AA A’ but the NT01 appears to wear more finely and we suspect, slower over a season. There is still plenty of controversy between RA1 supporters and the R888 and it boils down to what the ultimate use is. Some are claiming the R888 is better in the rain, some claim the RA1 maintains grip longer. Regardless, it held up under some heavy track use after driving to and from the track, it is affordable and looks great so the verdict is clear. Nothing at the track, including the high-dollar Porsches and M3 had a chance versus the Skyline equipped with the Toyo R888.
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