Is the Valino VR08GP the next great 200tw contender? | Tire Test

Andy
By Andy Hollis
Jul 11, 2021 | Tire Test, Valino | Posted in Tires & Wheels | From the Aug. 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Andy Hollis

New players constantly enter our world, hoping that their latest tire can satisfy the needs of our niche–for something faster, easier to drive or longer-wearing. Does Valino have a contender with its first full-on 200tw track day tire, the VR08GP?

We previously track-tested the brand’s Pergea 08RS drift tire and found it to feel oddly disconnected from front to rear and to wear at an accelerated rate. While sampling Valino’s latest offering for a scrub session on our Mazda MX-5 around Harris Hill Raceway of Austin, Texas, however, we initially found a well-rounded performance tire delivering exemplary handling characteristics. 

But the mid-corner grip clearly didn’t operate in the same ballpark as the Yokohama Advan A052s, the current class leader, so we added another player to the test: a set of Falken Azenis RT660s that had been worn to about half-tread. Perhaps, we figured, the Falkens would provide a closer comparison.

The Benchmarks: Yokohama and Falken

As reigning king of the hill, the fresh Yokohama A052 was our baseline tire. At full tread, its response feels especially vague, but the grip is best in class. As expected, the quick lap came on the first lap at 1:27.6, falling to a pair of 1:27.9s shortly thereafter. As the tire heated up, the combination of trail-braking, off-camber cornering, and exit power-down needed in the track’s two tightest turns was just too much for it to handle.

Next, we bolted on that set of worn Falkens. We love this tire’s responsiveness and communication, even when it’s not so fresh. It allows you to make small corrections in the middle of a turn based on feedback. It also gives you more shots at nailing a quick lap since it stays alive longer. 

From left to right: Newcomer Valino VR08GP, king of the hill Yokohama Advan A052, half-tread performer Falken Azenis RT660

The Falken matched the Yokohama on its first lap with a 1:27.6 before following up with a 1:27.4 and finally a 1:27.1. Most of this tire’s speed came when it was saturated with energy from hard braking into heavy lateral loading, followed by an ask for longitudinal grip to accelerate. The Falken’s ability to handle heat paid big dividends here. 

There was also a gearing advantage that the data showed accounting for about two tenths of the time delta to the taller Yokohama: While both the Yokohama and Valino tires measured 245/40R17, the Falkens sat slightly shorter at 235/40R17.

The Newcomer From Valino

Up next was the Valino VR08GP, the brand’s new 200tw model–in fact, it’s billed as its first true track tire. Tires can be purchased directly from the importer, and pricewise it lands between the Falken RT660 and Yokohama Advan A052: about $185 each in a 245/40R17 versus about $160 for the Falken and about $213 for the Yokohama. 

Test mule: our 2019 Mazda ND MX-5

Once on track, the new Valino quickly demonstrated very benign manners: linear steering, responsive handling and strong communication. But compared to the other top dogs, it just lacked basic lateral grip. Everything felt great right up to the middle of the turn–and then there was not nearly as much cornering force available.

But two things still stood out regarding the Valino: It delivered the most consistent lap times in our test, with only a two-tenths spread across four laps: 1:30.2 to 1:30.4. Further, it showed imperceptible wear after two sessions. If you want one set of lapping tires for a whole season, the Valino would be a solid choice. It might also make a good 24-hour endurance racing tire for teams trying to minimize tire changes. 

Explaining the Results

Had track changes accounted for the time differences? Had shifting conditions given the newcomer an advantage or  disadvantage? 

To find out, we bracketed our test by rerunning the Yokohama. It yielded a flyer of 1:27.2, followed by a 1:27.6 and a pair of 1:27.8s. While these were now quicker times for that tire, we weren’t too surprised since we started with a green track. 

What to do? Simple: Add another round to yield an ABCAB test structure, where A represents the Yokohama, B represents the Falken, and C the Valino. So we ran the Falkens again to see whether we had simply figured out the Yokohamas or if the track had gotten better. Answer? It was the track, with the Falkens posting a 1:26.7, with 1:27.1s on either side. 

As far as outright speed goes, this confirmed that the latest from Valino doesn’t run at the pointy end of the 200tw field. However, for those who seek a long-wearing tire that’s easy to drive, it could be a contender–perhaps just a tick slower than the ever-popular endurance tire, the Hankook Ventus RS4.

Tire Testing: Does Tire and Wheel Width Matter?

Will bolting on a set of wider wheels and tires make your car faster? Maybe. Let’s do some testing and see what one data point reveals. 

From left to right: Wider wheel Nankang CR-1, narrower wheel Nankang CR-1, benchmark Yokohama Advan A052

When testing tires on our K-powered Honda CRX, we usually run 15x9-inch front wheels along with 15x8-inch rears. In last issue’s test, for example, this setup allowed the 205/50R15 Yokohama Advan A052 to unlock all of its available performance; looking back, though, the ultra-wide 245/40R15 Nankang CR-1 seemed a little pinched. At the end of that day, both tires demonstrated similar lap time potential, but did we leave something on the table?

Specifically, could we find more grip from the 245mm Nankang with 15x10-inch front wheels? Would they outrun the 225/45R15 Nankangs on 15x9-inch wheels?

 To see if 10-inch wheels unlock more performance from the Nankangs, we loaded up for a return visit to Harris Hill Raceway. 

After a warmup session on some older scrubs, we bolted on our trusty Yokohamas for a baseline run. The track itself was very green this day due to some recent rains, so grip was down and the tires were more talkative. Adjusting quickly, we laid down three laps in the mid-1:24 range, with a flyer on lap two of 1:24.3. 

The 225/45R15 Nankangs on 15x9-inch wheels came next. As we noted last time, this tire’s compound takes a couple of corners to turn on. After that, however, braking and mid-corner grip are exceptional. But when pressed too far, performance quickly falls off a notch. We set our best time on this setup during our first lap–a 1:24.3–with subsequent circuits falling to consistent high 1:24s.

Time to bolt the 245mm-wide Nankangs onto big 15x10-inch wheels. Now the car simply looked meaner: Due to suspension clearance, the extra inch of wheel width extended outside the fenders. 

Test mule: Our One Lap of America Honda CRX

The increased track width did alter the handling a bit, adding some scrub radius and reducing front weight transfer. The wide, flat tread surface also tramlined a fair amount, following every undulation on the track surface. On big tracks, this tire poke causes additional high-speed aero drag, necessitating some bodywork changes to negate the downsides.

However, that big rubber netted a solid three-tenths pickup, dropping times to a 1:24.0 before ticking up to 1:24.5s. Most of that improvement came in the high-speed sweeper section at Turns 8 and 9, where the additional grip paid dividends.

We bracketed our Nankang versus Nankang comparison by remounting the Yokohamas. They delivered 1:24.3s to match the first round, confirming the veracity of the test: At least in this case, wider is faster.

Tire Testing: Does Tread Depth Matter?

This one is more anecdotal than scientific, but the pattern looks clear and the value is there. During our recent testing, we started off with a warmup session on an older set of scrub tires–in this case, 205/50R15 Yokohama Advan A052s showing about half their original tread. And in each case, the worn tires delivered significantly quicker laps than the full-tread ones used for the actual testing–same make, model size and test day. 

Here are the numbers from two different sessions:

Does this mean you should shave your tires for important competitions? Perhaps. Or at least manage the tread depth to keep them in the optimal range when top performance is required. 

Why can shallower tread yield faster times? Tall tread blocks have a tendency to squirm when loaded, which generates heat that makes them feel imprecise. Shallower tread is more responsive and consistent–and it’s also lighter.

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Comments
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randyracer
randyracer New Reader
7/10/21 2:14 p.m.

Thanks again, Andy, you test information is so interesting and helpful to us racers!  (Your friend Randy Pobst)

thashane
thashane GRM+ Memberand Reader
7/10/21 8:33 p.m.

wasn't expecting the additional about wheel width/ tread depth

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