Heat cycling race tyres, what does it achieve?

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“There is a lot of misinformation running around the internet (who would of thought), regarding the benefits of heat cycling track spec tyres. With the Nulon Nationals coming up we thought it would be best to do some research and put together some information about heat cycling and if it really does make a difference.

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The theory behind heat cycling tyres is to aligning the molecules in the rubber by bringing them into the operating temperature over a constant and gradual time, I.E not too fast, not too slow, now the traditional way to do this is slap them on some wheels and hit the track for around 15 minutes gradually increasing in speed (tyre temp) with the last lap being as hard as you can push, bringing the car back into the pits and letting the tyres cool at a constant rate. Some people also suggest running the tyres at a couple more PSI than normal. You want to avoid locking the tyre up as well as wheel spin as you will cook the tyre and lose any gain you thought you might be getting by heat cycling the tyre in the first place.

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However, it’s nearly impossible to get an even and consistent result from manual scrubbing by lapping the tyres around the circuit. Most people won’t get the chance, with pre-qualifying outings insufficient and subject to rain, and events like hill climbs going directly into competition.

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Now this might be the easiest solution for a lot of people, as we were doing some research into this, we discovered a process called heat cycling which involves machine that brings any Motorsport tyre into its perfect operating temperature (between 60-90c) over a 4 hour time period. The theory is that the longer you take doing this process the better the results. So we took a trip out to Penrith in Western Sydney and met with Bill from Gordon Leven Motorsport tyres to check out their setup and learn a little bit more about Heat cycling.

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“Scrubbing tyres in is a binding of what the tread compounds are made of, which you can do on your car at an event by introducing heat,” explains Bill. “When you do it on your car, you do it with your suspension angles, air pressures, uncertain conditions, cambers, dirt on the circuit, different temperatures and all the other variables of real world conditions.” With track time expensive and limited, and conditions impossible to control, getting the most from your tyres through scrubbing in has previously been an inexact science. That’s no longer the case. “Heat treating gives you a longer window of performance, more consistent performance for a greater period of time and less drop off grip wise.”

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Gordon Leven Motorsport Tyres offers an electronic scrubbing service where tyres are placed in a highly controlled oven and turned at 65 to 85 degrees so heat penetrates the entire tyre.

“We do it with a very constant heat that covers the whole tyre. The heat goes through the tyre to the case without wall flexing, debris on the circuit or the other pressures of actual driving. You’re binding the compound internally,” Bill says.

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“When you have a green competition tyre you get a performance and heat spike. When you don’t bed them in properly, that spike then falls away, fast.

“The better you prepare the tyres the longer that spike lasts before it falls away again. The more care you take the more you get out of them, always.”

Heat treating means you will see a wider window of life and higher performance from the tyre, more consistent lap times and maximum fun on the circuit.

Heat treating even works on street tyres.

“We are even heat treating road tyres for discerning drivers,” explains Bill. “Daily driving might mean a tyre never goes over 50-60 degrees so it never really beds in and the molecules never properly join. Heat treating means a longer and more consistent performance life for street tyres too.”

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We decided to put this theory to the test, so we picked up a set of Toyo Proxes R888 tyres and got Bill to heat cycle them for us to use at Round 3 of the Nulon Nationals. The main reason we went with the Toyo is it is widely regarded as the best semi slick tyre on the market for wear and longevity. So by heat cycling a long lasting tyre we should see really good kms out of them.

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This is the first set of R spec tyres we have run on our RWD civic, so we were excited to see what difference it made, Our first noticeable difference was how much stiffer the tyre was. We could really lean on it without slip or shatter. We went with a 225/50/16 which is a big sidewall for the Civic. This worried us until we hit the track, the sidewall is much thicker than we were used to so we got a lot more feedback through the steering wheel.

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As for the performance, we dropped 2 seconds a lap at Wakefield straight away over our old road tyres, which was expected to be honest, the biggest difference we noticed with running these Toyos is how much corner speed we could now carry, with road tyres we were barely holing on around the fish hook, now we could already start feeding more power into it. The limiting factor was now the driver not the car which puts a huge smile on our face.

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The biggest surprise for us was at the end of the day, as we drove out of the track and checked out tyres, they had hardly any wear on them, we had at least 85%-90% tyres left. The civic did 62 laps of Wakefield Raceway and had some off track action (as we were getting used to how hard we could lean on them) 1 set of tyres will last us all 4 rounds of our Nationals event, this is a pleasant change to having to buy tyres for each round.

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Now this result has to be a combination of a few different factors, Firstly the track conditions were mild, greasy and a little bit wet in places, This is almost the perfect conditions to prevent tyre degradation as you are not pushing as hard, the tyre doesn’t get hot and you can’t push the tyre to its limits in some regards, the Toyo R888 is a harder compound than some other R spec tyres, therefor they will always last longer than a soft compound but with slightly less grip, a controlled heat cycling process gave us a wider window of life and higher performance from the tyre which meant we were a lot smoother and had fewer lock ups.

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Now on the street, these tyres are louder than our old road tyres, but to be honest, any car with an exhaust turns this increase of noise from something that could bother you to something you hardly notice. The main thing that surprised us on the road with the Toyo is the cold tyre grip you have. We have read all the warnings people have given about driving an R spec tyre on the road. “ Make sure you warm them up”, “ Don’t expect them to have any grip for the first 10 minutes”. This simply isn’t the case with these tyres. From the moment you pull out of the driveway they felt like a normal road tyre until they get warm. Once they do, the grip, even on the street, is impressive.

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