What Happens When You Put F1 Tires on a Toyota MR2?

F1 cars have some of the most high-tech tires out there, but can they really work on a road car?

byLewin Day|
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YouTube/Driven Media


The enterprising YouTubers Driven Media aren't afraid to think outside the box, and did just that when they put Formula 1 tires on a humble Toyota MR2. As the video shows, the results are hilariously mixed and quite enjoyable to watch.

As the interface between a vehicle and the road, tires have a major influence on a car's performance and handling. Adding stickier tires is a surefire way to decrease laptimes, and is often the most important modification for any track build. Thus, the thinking goes that if sticky race tires are good, then surely F1 tires must be the stickiest and the goodest. A set of Pirelli P-Zero Ultra Softs certainly would seem to fit the bill.

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Of course, fitting F1 tires to an MR2 is no mean feat. As shown in the supplementary how-to video, special hub adapters were machined out of steel to allow the centerlock F1 wheels to mount on the four-stud hubs of the Toyota. The third-generation MR2 was specifically chosen for this task, thanks to its small brakes that would fit inside 13" F1 wheels.

The pain didn't end there, either. While the rears fit without a lot of protest, plenty of work had to be done up front to allow the car to steer with the wider rubber. Arch liners were stripped out and a pinch weld on the chassis had to be hammered flat. When that turned out not to be enough, an angle grinder was employed to hack away at the front of the chassis rails. If you want to fit F1 tires to a road car, you're going to have to ruin it in the process.

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The results are visually impressive, to say the least. Thanks to the size of the wheel and tire combination, the MR2 doesn't sit particularly low. However, with near-enough a foot of tire poke out the sides, it has a certain gokart-like appeal in its stance.

Those expecting the fancy F1 rubber to revolutionize the MR2's handling will be sorely disappointed. Beyond the clearance issues, thermal problems also got in the way. The tires are designed to hit operating temperature when being lapped at race pace around a track on a Formula 1 car with four-digit horsepower.

In comparison, a 130 hp Toyota MR2 simply can't get enough energy in the tires to heat them up properly. Instead, the tires remain cold, and offer incredibly poor grip compared to a properly-specced road tire.

The team busted out a set of tire warmers to aid in the cause. With the tires heated up to 212°F (100°C), the grip level rises substantially, even if the MR2 can't really maintain them at that level for long. Properly heated, the team were able to lay down a hot lap of 1:35.1, a full 3.2 seconds than an initial lap on road tires at 1:38.3.

Winding on too much steering lock got the F1 tire jammed in the wheel well. YouTube/Driven Media

It's not a cheap way to save 3 seconds, of course, and regular semi-slicks probably would have netted more improvement for less. The total cost came in at £2000 for a set of the tires, £2000 to machine the hub adapters, £5000 for the tire warmers, and £1500 for the ruined Toyota MR2. All up, the final bill of £11,000 Queenbucks ($14,000 USD) is a steep one.

It's not the first time Driven Media has experimented with weird and whacky tire setups. The team has previously run F1 tires on a Caterham, while also testing their own airless tires made out of hardware store parts, with amusing results.

If you show up to your local track day with F1 tires on your car, you're sure to draw plenty of attention. You're also equally likely to get the whole paddock laughing when you spin out on cold tires. If that sounds like a fun day, and it does to us, start shopping for ex-F1 rubber and get your angle grinder out.

Got a tip? Let the author know: lewin@thedrive.com

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