Tire Management – Saving That Rubber!

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In sim racing, recent advancements in technology have led to developers being able to simulate tire wear better than ever. However, that means that us as racers have had to “retrain” ourselves to make sure we can make the most out of our virtual rubber. I want to give you guys some tips to take full advantage of what connects the car to the road.

Tire Potential – What a Tire Can and Can’t Do

One of the biggest things to remember when driving, is that tires only have so much they can do. They have a limited amount of potential, that can be spread among 3 aspects:

A. Acceleration
B. Braking
C. Cornering

Imagine a tire’s potential as a pie chart, with 100% possible to be used. The potential can be spread across all three elements of driving, but it has to add up to 100. If you’re using 90% of a tire’s potential for braking, you will only have ten percent available for cornering. That is why it is recommended you get most of your braking done before turning into the corner. Trail-braking can be used for affecting the balance of a car, but it is NOT recommended for the actual act of slowing down.

NOTE: You can use less than 100% of the tire’s potential, but you CAN’T use more than 100%.

Why Do Tires Wear Out?

To figure out how to maximize the life of your tires, you need to take a closer look at why tires wear out:

One word that will be essential to know is the word “Friction”. Friction is defined as “The action of one surface or object rubbing against another”. The main culprit for tire wear is the friction caused by the tires slipping on the racing surface while cornering.

While a tire is (under normal circumstances) always in contact with the racing surface, only a portion of the tire is in contact with the surface itself. That is called the “Contact Patch”. As a tire flexes and deforms under driving conditions, the tire’s contact patch will become larger or smaller.

Tires are meant to flex, to maximize the car’s potential while cornering. A fancy term to describe how a tire acts under cornering is “Slip Angle”. A more technical definition of Slip Angle is “the angle between a rolling wheel’s actual direction of travel and the direction towards which it is pointing”. If you apply too much lateral force on the tires, the slip will be too much, and you’ll lose grip. Too little, and you’re not using the full potential of your tires. For more info on slip angles, check out this video below, and also the iRacing Driving School Video here.

When the tire slides, it is sort of like a sandpaper effect. The racing surface “wears” away at the tire, and the tire’s rubber is left on the surface. The rubber can sometimes improve grip, increase the slip angle, and (arguably) reduce wear, so later in the race you may be able to get away with more. However, some cars can react adversely to rubber on certain surfaces. For example, I think some NASCAR vehicles have to adjust lines, to avoid going too much on the rubber.

The surface can also affect how quickly a tire wears. Like different grip sandpapers, a racing surface’s texture can be coarse or fine. Smooth asphalt will wear tires out less than weathered racing surfaces or rough concrete. That is another element racers need to consider when racing.

What Can You Do To Minimize Wear?

Some things you can do to minimize tire wear is make sure you don’t steer excessively. This was a common mistake I had early in my sim racing career. More is not always better in regards to steering input. You want to steer as little as possible to get around the corner quickly, and without much slippage. Less slip = less wear.

Another essential skill for a racer is to maximize the use of your tires, but not go over. Make sure you’re not braking too much while turning (or you may flat spot, which only makes wear worse). Don’t be too hard on the throttle coming out of a corner, or you’ll spin the tires.

Last but definitely not least, is to BE GRADUAL in your driving inputs. If you’re too sudden with your steering, throttle, or braking, you’ll upset the car, and the tires. A smooth driver is usually a fast driver. Most drivers who fight the car aren’t the best (save for legends like Senna). Make sure you treat your car well, and it will treat you well.

Do you have any tips on how to conserve your tires? Let us know in the comments below!