For the next session, we went for the gusto and slapped on a set of sticky Toyo R888 street-legal, competition tires. Toyo's R888 tires are fully DOT-approved and are ideally suited for road racing, autocrossing, or the ultimate in high-performance driving. Since the R888 is bred for the track, it has unique design characteristics that promote maximum adhesion. For instance, the R888 has a stiff sidewall bead construction that yields increased cornering forces. Also, a 6/32-inch tread depth and large tread area increase dry traction, while the V-shaped grooves assist with wet traction.
Like the saying goes, "You gotta pay to play" and the Toyo R888s in our selected size will set you back around $300 per tire. Obviously, tire size will affect pricing. Not exactly chump change, but as our testing proved, it paid big dividends.
We selected beefy 275/40/18 Toyos for our tester. We also had to increase the size of the wheels to accommodate the larger tires. Wanting to preserve the "factory" look, we selected a set of 18 x 9½-inch Shelby GT-500 replica wheels from Trade Union. Chrome plating provides the extra "wow factor". Trade Union reproduces many popular wheels specifically designed to fit Mustangs and prices them right for today's economy. A full set of chrome 18-inch Shelby GT-500 replicas will set you back about $800, while the machined-finish version carries a lower price, if bling isn't your thing.
For round two, we were rewarded immediately with additional grip. The 18-inch wheel/tire package bit down so hard around corners we had a tough time getting them to break loose! We found we were able to push much harder around the course before we got remotely close to the limits of traction. After only a few laps, our average lap time had been cut down to 52.64 seconds, a whopping 2.01 second reduction in lap time. That may not sound like much, but on a short, tight autocross course, that's huge.
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