2023-04-20 – Do I Need Slicks for a Track Day?

It never fails to amaze me that people believe that you need slicks for track days, regardless of pace. To be clear, slicks do offer greater grip most anywhere, but that requires a few things be met:
* Yes, you should use warmers. If you’re diligent and restrained, you can warm them up with a couple of modest laps with deliberate up and down braking and acceleration.
* Yes, you should monitor temperatures and pressure
* You select the appropriate slick for the temperature and possibly track surface
* Most importantly, you should be running a pace that keeps heat in the tires. If you don’t, the tires will cool and lose all that juicy grip that slicks can offer. If you’re running C group or the slower half of most B group days, you’ll likely have better grip with a DOT street legal tire.

Slicks do offer maximum grip assuming the above conditions are met, and they are more forgiving of poor technique than a DOT tire. I’ve seen people get away with poor technique on slicks that would have resulted in very bad things with a road legal tire.

So what DOTs should you run? Honestly, any from a brand name are probably fine. I’ve done plenty of track days on semi-sticky DOTs, my favorite do-it-all tire on my Street Triple was the Rosso Corsa II which has since been superseded by the Rosso IV. I like those tires because they have a silica compound (which provides chemical grip in cool and damp conditions) and they have multi-compound construction so they’re good for so many things. I think the Super Corsa is overkill and too expensive and temperamental for a lot of street riding, though it’s great on track. In the Dunlop world, the new Q5 & Q5s are good options though I’ve yet to ride on them but I will once I finish my Q3+ on the Ninja 400. The Attack MotoAmerica team did testing on the new Q5 at Buttonwillow and went ~5 seconds slower with those than they did with slicks (still well under 1:50). The Pirelli SC3 TD is a DOT version of the SC3 slick with sipes (the compound may be different too, I can’t keep up with all the Pirelli changes honestly) and should offer similar grip levels of the regular Super Corsa but is far less expensive but only available from trackside vendors.

I replaced my Street Triple in October 2022 with a Tuono V4. Because I wanted better grip in cold and damp conditions, I put on a set of the original Angel GT sport touring tires (something like 6 or 7 year old design). The rear is narrower than the original tire at a 190/55. I’ve done a few track days on the Angel GTs now too. While I haven’t had any problems whatsoever, I don’t have the confidence to lean the bike over as far as I would a stickier DOT or slicks, but the grip was quite good. I didn’t go through the Aprilia’s calibration process correctly so the TC kicked in early (which I could feel) but I didn’t feel the ABS once (even set in a middle setting). At the track, I set them to 32 psi front and 28 rear (the numbers on the tire vendor’s board) and they were amazingly capable. The fact that I didn’t have to deal with warmers and that they were good to go in 1 lap of deliberate warm-up made the day so easy. This set of tires presently has ~1200 street miles and ~450 track miles on them and they have loads of life left. The rear doesn’t show that typical Thunderhill ‘shelf’ you get after a couple of days of running there. I kind of wish they’d wear out because I want to try other tires!

So, do you need slicks for the track? If you’re practicing good technique and not trying to fight physics, street tires/DOTs will work just fine. No, I didn’t have as much confidence as I would have on a stickier DOT or a slick, which I’ll use next time, but in no way did they feel dangerous and the convenience and cost considerations are huge. Unless you’re at the faster end of the B group or into the A, I’d recommend a solid DOT tire.

Angel GT (190/55) with 1200 street miles & ~450 track miles. No complaints on wear and still holding its profile even with all the miles at Thunderhill.
Tuono V4 on sport-touring tires at Thunderhill East. My ‘slip’ is high even up and down because I didn’t correctly calibrate the bike for the tire size so the TC comes in early.