When Nitto invited us to its media day to test its new NT-01 competition radial, we couldn't pass up the opportunity. Anytime we hear "free track time" we turn into adolescent schoolgirls, giddy with excitement. Unlike other events where we are given mediocre test cars shod with the test tires, the Nitto folks told us to bring a personal vehicle and they would equip it with the NT-01 radials. At this point we were bursting with anticipation-not only would we get free track time, we'd get to run our own car equipped with their new tires. What more could we ask for?
The downside was that all of our project vehicles were in some state of modification. Being the resourceful staff we are we quickly turned to our friends at XS Engineering to borrow one of their vehicles. Eric Hsu, chief engineer, cordially agreed to bring out XS's track-prepped Mitsubishi Evolution VIII. We're talking fully built engine, tuned suspension, aero enhancements and upgraded brakes. This is not your average EVO. We equipped the Mitsubishi with 245/45 tires all around and went off to attack the California Speedway road course.
The California Speedway road course is an extremely fast course with some elevation change and two straightaways. It's not too technical but more than enough of a course to test the performance of the NT-01 radials. The ideal operating temperature for the NT-01, according to Nitto, is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for maximum adhesion to the tarmac. After two warm-up laps to get the tires up to operating temperatures we were off and running.
For the first round we sat shotgun with Eric Hsu at the helm. Eric commented the NT-01s handled extremely well, giving predictable feedback in the corners. He was also amazed by the tire's high-speed stability. For round two we strapped into the driver's seat and pushed the tires to the limit. Vehicle control through high-speed corners was very predictable; several times getting into a four-wheel slide out of the corners. With other tires we took it easy but the NT-01s gave so much positive feedback that we felt comfortable using the throttle to get through the corners at a much higher speed than we thought possible.
The Nitto engineers also pointed out that the NT-01 also features a hard bead filler that increases the lateral control of the vehicle. This is extremely important in high-speed cornering. We were able to test whether this was the case since the track had a high-speed chicane at the end of a straightaway. First, you have to overcome your fear of doing 100-plus flat-out through the chicane. After a couple of test runs we felt the NT-01 responded very well.
All in all, Nitto's NT-01 R-compound tire impressed us with its amazing grip and high-speed stability. The tread depth of the NT-01 is .1875-inch but the tire can be shaved to .0938-inch for maximum performance. At the .0938-inch depth the tread pattern reveals a slick with two circumferential tread grooves. The treadwear of the NT-01 is 100 and although they are DOT approved, highway use is not highly recommended. The R-compound significantly reduces tread life and the NT-01 was not designed to be driven in the rain as hydroplaning can occur.
With both a temperature and traction grade of "A" and a speed rating of "W" (up to 168 mph) the NT-01 is a true competitor in the highly competitive competition radial market. From our testing we feel the NT-01 will be a top performer on the track on any vehicle; take notice spec racers.
Pricing has not been set but look for the NT-01 to be priced comparably to other competition radials. Currently Nitto has limited sizes ranging from 14 to 18 inches but plans to offer additional sizes.