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Will F1 Wheels and Tires Help a Regular Sports Car Perform Better on the Track?

Formula 1 is the most expensive branch of motorsport, and the series raced for decades on 13-inch wheels and tires. Now, they use 18-inch wheels and tires. Pirelli was a supplier for the special tires used in the sport, and those come with a special set of requirements so that they offer their true level of performance. With that in mind, is there any improvement with them on a road-going car?
13-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR2 8 photos
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube video by Driven Media
13-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR213-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR213-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR213-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR213-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR213-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR213-inch F1 tires on Toyota MR2
As you can imagine, this is easier written than done, as fitting 13-inch wheels to a modern car is not easy, as few vehicles have brakes that are small enough to fit the 13-inch wheels. Even then, the wheel hub requires a custom adapter to make the center-lock wheels fit.

Even still, there is yet another problem, as installing these wheels and tires in a normal vehicle is not ideal, as they will not fit like normal tires in the wheel wells, since they are wider than normal road-going tires.

For the sake of the entire experiment, Scott Mansell went ahead and found the only rear-mid-engined vehicle that can fit wheels that are this small.

The installation was not straightforward at all, and it involved irreversible changes to the vehicle, as well as machining custom parts. In total, the team spent almost twice what was paid for the vehicle just to get everything ready for the shot.

Now, after such expenditure, as well as effort, one would expect that fitting F1 wheels and tires on a car would bring dramatic improvements in grip, which would result in a visible performance improvement. In theory, yes, but things work differently in the real world, especially after you take everything into account.

The biggest issue with Formula 1 tires is that they require a certain temperature range to operate at their optimum performance. If they get too hot or too cold, all their grip goes away like a beautiful dream when the alarm clock goes off.

Even with experience and talent, keeping a vehicle on the track with cold F1 tires is a near-impossible feat. Here is how things went for Driver61, Scott Mansell, in a Toyota MR2.

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About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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