Sunday, February 01, 2009
When news wafted our way that Nitto was developing a new road racing competition radial, called the NT01, we knew we were in for a treat. When it comes to supersticky race rubber, there are never enough choices. Designed in the same vein as the NT555R tire, the new NT01 promised to deliver consistent grip at an affordable price. Good enough for us.
Molded with a 6/32-inch tread depth (about 4/32 of an inch less than an average street tire), the NT01 can be further shaved to remove the visible tread, developing into a 3/32-inch race slick with just two grooves running around its circumference. To put Nitto's claims to the test, we went to Vision Autosport (www.visionautosport.com) in Hacienda Heights, Calif., to get our NT01s expertly mounted. We tried out the NT01 tire on two completely different vehicles, a lightweight half-stripped 2000 Honda Civic Si with 205/50-15s and a heavier, modified, turbocharged 2002 Subaru WRX using 245/45-17s. Both cars used the NT01 tires in unshaven form and were taken out to the asphalt at California Speedway. Although DOT approved, the asymmetrical NT01 tire is a true competition tire and comes packing only a 100 treadwear rating. Regardless of how hardcore you really are, the NT01 isn't recommended for street use. Why not? The grippy compound picks up and throws rocks as you drive around; the road noise approaches that of 4x4 knobbies; there is almost no water evacuation built into the tread, and the soft compound wears fast enough from going down the expressway that you'll be burning money if these are your daily rubbers. That's why not.
0511It Nitto03 Z
The track is where the NT01 shines. The tire has a much higher grip ceiling than most street tires, and the edge of adhesion is very forgiving. In the near-stripped Civic, we tore through the cones with more speed than we thought capable. Plus, the front-drive missile is setup to rotate so easily, we were unsure if the sliding rear end was going to overheat the back tires. On the WRX we discovered the NT01 is a very consistent tire, with excellent heat capacity for autocross situations.
Although the NT01 is W speed rated up to 168 mph, our WRX had some engine tuning issues and wasn't able to push up to that speed bracket to test for 170-mph tire durability. Not that we would try that anyway. Although not as outright sticky as a Hoosier racing slick, the NT01 promises to be priced much, much lower and last much, much longer, making it the perfect racing tire for weekend autocrossers and track day drivers. If you're not stinkin' rich, but you still enjoy driving at the limit in sanctioned events like driver education days, the Nitto NT01 is just the tire for you. Check out Nitto's Web site for fitment and pricing: www.nittotire.com.