Banned by some racing categories, tread buffing is a dark art practised by circuit fanatics searching for those elusive tenths.
The original use for the buffing machine was in the pre-radial tyre age. A time when tyres came from the factory with ‘extra’ tread that made them a little less than perfectly round and in need of a little shave to roll clean.
Why would a person shave the tread from their competition tyres? The short answer: grip. From the outset, we should note that the benefits of buffing apply exclusively to track use.
Under the extreme pressures of cornering, braking and accelerating in race conditions tyre tread blocks flex.
Known as tread flex, squirm or walking, the areas between tread grooves move with heat and, under pressure, can increase slip angles, reduce speed and bloat lap times.
Unsuitable for use anywhere but on a dry race track, the shaving down of tread blocks also increases surface contact area: and more compound on the ground means more traction.
Think of a full slick in F1, or the scene in the World’s Fastest Indian where Burt Munro is hacking off tread in search of the ultimate top speed.
Owner and operator of Motorsport Tyres Victoria Russell Palmer is a motorsport tyre mastermind.
He spent 14 years in Malaysia developing, testing and marketing a worldwide range of competition tyres with forays into rally and circuit , and managed a control tyre series across South America, Asia, and Europe. Suffice to say Russell knows rubber, and when it comes to buffing, he is a fan.
“The less the depth of tread, the less movement you have,” Russell says.
“In motorsport there is a lot of force acting on the tyre. As it rotates and comes in contact with the tarmac it will have a lot of force trying to push it sideways, meaning each segment of rubber will move.
“When you are really leaning on the tyre around the corner you will get a slip angle on the tyre and lose a portion of its grip.
“Taking a few millimetres from the thickness of the tyre tread compound means it won’t squirm or move as much as a full depth tread. In doing this, your tyre life is reduced but serious drivers want to get the best lap time or the best out of the tyre and aren’t concerned with longevity.”
Buffed R888R saw faster lap times
Buffed R888R on the left vs. new and untouched R888R on the right.
The bad side of buffing? Forget driving in wet weather. The main role of tread patterns is to evacuate water and resist aquaplaning. On a buffed tyre, you forego rain racing.
If you think buffing might be the key to rapid ascension through the ranks of motorsport, give your local Toyo motorsport dealer a call.
Shave your tread, shave your times.