We’ve seen and heard a lot about Nankangs first serious track day tyre, the AR-1. Some good, some bad and some indifferent. So with plenty of seat time under our belts this year and the car refined in every other way, its time to test some different rubber and compare it to the likes of Toyo and Dunlop that we’ve used previously.
Initial impressions. Firstly, I’ve never understood why track dedicated tyre manufacturers don’t easily display recommended tyre pressures and tyre temperature operating windows. The tyre was developed for the track, these manufacturers have the data so why not make our lives easier and display it! Thankfully Nankang have this easily listed on their site. Which is great!! With the track day enthusiast getting more and more technical in their abilities, tyres and brakes being the most talked about subjects, readily available information like recommended pressures, tyre temp operating windows and recommended camber settings puts Nankang one step ahead in my opinion. They even have recommended camber settings! Top work.
Do Toyo, Yokohama and Dunlop have this information available to you? Not that I can see easily and i shouldn’t have to delve into the realms of the internet to find it either! What would it take to add this info onto the sticker of each tyre? I’m sure I could swallow the extra 1 pound in production cost to add this information, could you?
This is the problem with motorsport, customer service is a low priority compared to other industries, but that’s a subject for another day, back to the review.
After scrubbing the tyres in (we followed data from Avon tyres website for this) then we set about getting the tyre pressures right and picking up the lines round Snetterton 300 circuit.
Before we go into performance, here’s a top line run down of the car, around 210-220 bhp depending on dyno’s, 915kg in race trim, c20xe 2.0 commonly known as the redtop on jenvey throttle bodies, Quaife straight cut 5 speed box and gripper diff, GAZ gold suspension, AP 5040 brakes with Tilton floor mount pedal box and Ferodo ds uno pads, rose jointed lower arms for camber and caster, plus all the usual modifications.
So onto how the tyre feels. Firstly, our tyre size is 205/50/15, although the profile might seem high to most, this is typical for this size tyre in a semi slick and what we have ran in both the Toyo R888, R888R and Dunlop 03g. But mounting these on the wheel, we noticed straight away that the AR-1 is a wider tyre and with clearance being an issue, there was slight concern that some arch rubbing could occur. Another observation was that the tyre wall was stiffer than the r888r and similar to the Dunlop in our opinion.
After building up our speed, we found we were dropping a lot of pressure out the tyres to keep them in their recommended window. The tyre responded well to this and typically found that 2-3psi less pressure worked best in the Nankang AR-1 compared to the Toyo R888r which responded better to a higher pressure.
In the end we settled with a balanced 28psi hot all round which seemed to give a very even tyre wear.
Now onto the grip! Initial thoughts….. impressed! Braking felt very stable, we seemed to be able to brake later and harder without any wheel lock, could we have locked the wheels? Yes we have the braking efficiency to do so, but if I applied the same pedal force on the Toyo tyres I believe white clouds would have appeared!
High speed turn in felt abit better than the Toyo but not as positive as the Dunlop. However once the tyre was under load, it performed very well at high speed and confidence inspiring which allowed me to push on! Carrying more speed through turn 1 and Corum notably, thats long right hander before the pit straight.
This transpired into an impressive lap time capable of dipping into the 2:11’s round Snettertons 300 circuit. That’s 4 seconds faster than our most recent lap using the Toyo R888r. Maybe the R888r had a faster time in them, but the Nankang felt like it was less likely to break away at high speed, again adding confidence to push on through fast sections, ultimately where you’re more likely to gain time over the course of a lap.
Performance in mind, the Nankang is similar to the more expensive Dunlop initially, however, how they compare halfway through their tyre life, we have yet to find out.
This bring us onto tyre wear, I wouldn’t say they wore quicker or slower then any other brand. In hindsight, if you utilise the tyre as per the specs of the manufacture, you should be able to maximise the tyre life, providing your names not Ken Block drifting and smoking the tyres.
How do they fair in the wet?
Well, not particularly well, but that’s to be expected given the tread pattern. If the track is mildly damp then I would use these over a road tyre and raise the tyre pressures. But in wet conditions the performance is below that of a Toyo R888 tyre which i would choose over the Nangkang.
As a bench mark, these Nankang AR-1’s were 3 seconds a lap slower than Uniroyal rain sport 3’s round Snetterton 300.
If you’re looking for a good dry track tyre within a budget, then from our experience, the Nangkang AR-1 is recommended highly! Good levels of grip and feedback through the car, intermediate tyre wear and enough information to know that you’re maximising the tyre for your set up.
If you want more of an all rounder then maybe the Toyo is better suited and if you do have the budget, well the Dunlop is still an excellent tyre proven on many makes and models, more than capable of taking race wins.
How is this comparable to me?
Some might say, but it’s a Corsa, on a tyre review? Of course, they’re right, it is a corsa. But, it still has 4 wheels, an agressive LSD, straight cut close ratio box, 240 bhp/ton and more importantly, it’s been vertually unchanged across various tyres which makes it quite a fair test. It’s also been driven on the limit for well over 5 years, we know how the car reacts. Therefor we can provide a fairly accurate comparison in our opinion.
Of course different tyres will work better or worse on different cars, depending on weight, set up and driving style.
But for the money these currently sit at, we know where our next purchase will be. They may not be the best tyre on the market, but they certainly aren’t the worst. Which makes this AR-1 a good choice for trackday goers and club motorsport racers on a reasonable budget.