Ask any seasoned wheelman which performance modification offers the biggest bang-for-the-buck potential to improve lap times on just about any production car and they will almost invariably look to the tires first.

While weight, power, suspension setup and overall chassis configuration obviously play important roles, the tires are – if all goes according to plan – the only part of the car that are actually making contact with the pavement. Accordingly, the amount of grip they offer plays a pivotal role in not only the car’s handling prowess, but its acceleration and braking capability as well.

Over the past decade or so the automotive landscape has changed in dramatic fashion, particularly in the realm of performance. As factory-produced vehicles have become more and more capable, enthusiasts are discovering that they need to get out to the track to really explore the limits of what these high performance machines can do. Once they're there, places where a car's setup can be improved start to become evident, and swapping tires for a stickier compound is one of the easiest ways to add capability to a vehicle. But with so many different high performance tire compounds and constructions now on offer, each with a different goal, it can be tricky to discern where each one does its best work.

As the golden age of performance that we’re currently enjoying continues to churn out fantastic automobiles with ever-increasing capability, more and more enthusiasts are looking to take their sporting aspirations off the street and into closed course events, which is not only a far safer and more rewarding environment to wring out an automobile, but also opens up a number of possibilities in terms of dialing in the vehicle for use in these controlled settings, particularly when it comes to tire compound and use.

The technology behind tire design continues to evolve at an incredibly rapid pace as well, and that’s even more good news for enthusiasts. But with so many high performance tire options now available it’s also becoming more difficult to determine which tire is best suited for a particular application. To help us take some of the guesswork out of the process, we’re going through Toyo Tires‘ current high performance tire lineup with some insight directly from the source so we can zero in on which applications each offering is best designed to handle.

The R888 has been a popular choice with autocrossers, track rats, and the performance enthusiast community in general for years now. Officially debuting last October, the R888R serves as the R888's successor in Toyo's Ultra High Performance tire lineup. This 100 treadwear tire improves upon the R888 with more dry grip and quicker ramp up to operating temperature, where it's designed to provide predictable grip and consistent lap times in turn. The R888R’s new tread pattern also enhances the contact patch, giving the tire a noticeable improvement in dry traction for shorter braking distances, enhanced stability, better acceleration, and higher cornering speeds versus its predecessor.

Competition Tires

Proxes R888R – For those who’ve used a Toyo tire designed for both street and track use before the R888R name might be familiar. As an evolution of the popular R888, the R888R maintains the DOT-legal status of its predecessor while providing improved grip, particularly in dry conditions.

That means the R888R continues to offer the convenience of being a tire which can be driven to the track, competed with, and then driven home while providing significantly more grip than a typical summer tire.

“The R888 has a relatively stiff construction, our GG racing compound, and it’s a tread design that offers wide shoulder blocks and center block to increase contact patch area,” says Drew Dayton, Product Manager for Toyo Tire USA. “The R888R improves upon the strategy of the R888 with an updated tread design that is optimized to increase dry track performance with a contact patch area that is significantly larger in both a straight line and while cornering.”

The rollout of the new R888R is still ongoing, and while the size lineup continues to be fleshed out over the coming months, Toyo will continue to offer the R888 alongside the new tire to ensure that enthusiasts have access to the tire sizes they require.

Though the RR is DOT legal, it is a tire that is truly designed for road course use only, and under dry conditions, whereas the R888R is a road course tire designed to provide grip in the wet too. The RR features a symmetrical two-groove design for longitudinal stability, as well as reinforced sidewall and high-modulus bead filler to provide excellent steering response and feedback. The RR's two wide steel belts and a spiral wound nylon cap ply are designed to provide consistent lap times throughout the lifetime of the tire.

Proxes RR – Moving a step beyond the R888R is the RR. While still DOT legal, the 4/32 inch-deep tread of the RR is more specifically focused on dry handling for road course environments, making it ideal for SCCA/NASA series racing, HPDE events, autocross, and other performance driving where consistent lap times and predictable handling are top priority.

As one of the first street legal track tires, the RA1’s racing compound offered huge improvements in grip over typical street tires. The proven design still sees use today wet tire for spec classes that run the RR in dry conditions.

“While the R888 and R888R are suitable for both dry and wet track use, the RR is designed for dry track use only,” explains Dayton. “We recommend the Proxes RR for race prepped vehicles – it is the spec tire for many NASA spec classes.”

Proxes RA1 – As one of the first DOT legal track tires, the RA1 has earned a reputation for consistent handling lap after lap while providing long tread life.

Featuring 8/32″ tread depth, the RA1 is more forgiving when competing in less-than-ideal conditions than some of Toyo’s dry weather-focused offerings, too.

“The RA1 is a full race compound, which is what really sets this apart from a standard summer tire,” Dayton tells us.

“The design also helps to provide improved grip in the wet versus our other competition tires, and we currently use the RA1 as the wet option for spec classes that normally use the RR.”

Since the RS1 is a full slick, it’s designed to offer the pinnacle of grip during prolonged use in dry conditions, making them ideal for endurance racing, where consistent performance throughout the life of the tire is as important as the grip it provides.

Proxes RS1 – Sitting at the top of Toyo’s UHP food chain is the RS1. As a full slick, this tire is designed for competition use only and therefore is not DOT legal, but it’s also the ticket to the fastest lap times under good conditions.

“As our non-DOT legal racing slick, the RS1’s uncompromised dry grip design makes this a popular choice for sprint racing, endurance events, and driver education courses,” says Dayton. “It’s designed to provide consistent performance throughout the life of the tire while holding up the rigors of prolonged track use.”

Toyo’s Top Qualifier Drag Radial is to the drag strip what the R888R is the road course, offering the convenience of being able to drive to and from the track with the same set of tires you’re competing on.

Proxes TQ – At a glance the TQ might seem similar to a tire like the RA1, but as a drag-focused DOT legal radial, its design is focused around launch performance, providing drag racers with improved off-the-line grip than garden-variety summer tires to help ensure the power gets to the ground at launch, in turn yielding shorter ETs. That focus makes Toyo’s design strategy for the TQ inherently different than a tire like the RA1.

“The TQ was optimized for the drag strip while also providing racers with a tire that could be driven to and from the track without the need to swap sets for competition,” says Dayton.

The inner half of the TQ’s tread functions as a semi-slick for improved off-the-line grip while the outer half of the tire features a tread pattern designed to reduce road noise while out on the street.

“Drag racing requires high initial traction for short bursts of time, whereas road racing requires consistent performance over a race distance for both braking, accelerating and cornering. As such, the TQ’s compound and design varies substantially from a tire like the RA1. While both can provide improved track performance, each will excel most and offer the biggest benefits in the specific performance disciplines they were designed for.”

Street Tires

Looking for more grip on your street car? Toyo also offers a number of high performance tire options that are designed for road-going daily drivers as well.

The Proxes T1 Sport now serves as Toyo’s go-to max performance summer tire, and is available in more than 60 sizes ranging from 17-inch to 20-inch wheel diameters.

Proxes T1 Sport – The 240 treadwear rated Proxes T1 Sport is Toyo’s next generation sports car tire. Designed to provide a good balance in the dry and wet, and it is produced in a large variety of popular fitments from 17-inch up to 20-inch rims.  The T1 Sport is the most popular of Toyo’s UHP tire products, and is found on many types of performance sedans and coupes.

“I have instructed at the track with the Proxes T1R’s on my e39 M5 and shocked a lot of students in the advance sessions toward the end of the weekend. They have worked exceptionally well,” says Jay Jones, a BMW CCA driving instructor and HPDE driving coach. “When I replaced that car with my first-generation CTS-V, I installed the Proxes T1 Sports and have experienced the same kind of results. While the cars were mainly street-driven, I could go out and run with more dedicated track cars and mix it up with them with no problem.”

The Proxes T1R is available in sizes going all the way up to 22-inch wheel diameters.

Proxes T1R – Serving as the predecessor to the the Proxes T1 Sport, the Proxes T1R features a 280 treadwear rating and is positioned as a dry summer tire that also features wet handling capability due in part to the V-shaped main grooves which help to disperse water.  It is available in limited sizes to fit rims from 15- through 22-inch rims.

The Proxes 1

Proxes 1 – “While having the same 240 treadwear rating, the Proxes 1 is ideally used only as a replacement for high-end sports cars wanting a premium upgrade,” Dayton explains. “Designed for select 18- and 19-inch wheel fitments, it uses Toyo’s advanced TruForm technology, and the result is better uniformity and improved handling performance thanks to a high-rigidity belt package that reduces tread deformation.” The Proxes 1 also boasts the “Silent Wall” design feature in the tread that decreases noise, while computer simulation applied in development optimizes Proxes 1 for varying road surfaces.

As the first multi-compound product Toyo Tires has brought to the United States, six of the ten sizes that are available for the Proxes 1 feature a multi-compound tread engineered for high speed handling, cornering and braking. The remaining four sizes (width of 285 and greater) feature a compound and design specifically focused on vehicle balance and improved cornering power.

The Proxes R1R

Proxes R1R – Running along the edge of street and track performance and positioned as a slightly more street-focused alternative to the R888R, the Proxes R1R is an extreme performance summer tire featuring a 200 treadwear rating.

Popular with enthusiasts who autocross and attend track days, the R1R features an aggressive arrowhead tread design along with an extra wide footprint and a high-grip compound. Select sizes of this tire are also available in a 140 treadwear rating.

With so much specialized performance rubber on offer from Toyo Tires, it can be tricky to discern where each design’s greatest strengths are. But armed with the knowledge and insight we’ve provided above, choosing a Toyo tire that best suits your performance needs should be a much simpler task.

Looking to reduce your lap times, e.t.’s, or just get improved grip levels out on the street? Give the folks at Toyo Tires a call and find out just how much of a performance difference having the right rubber can make.