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Nankang AR-1 R Spec tyre review

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    Nankang AR-1 R Spec tyre review

    Due to popular demand (well, one person asked) I'm writing up a review of the relatively new Nankang AR-1 R Spec track tyre.

    By way of background, I try to be data driven when running a track/race car. I don't believe in the butt dyno, I do believe that the stopwatch tells no lies. So this review is going to be as objective and fact based as possible.

    The test rig is a 2013 Suzuki Swift Sport, with a stock motor, 100kw at the flywheel, set up as a dedicated track car. It's stripped out, not street registered, and is fairly well dialled in after two years of track days. The suspension is well sorted, with BC Coilovers, roll centre correction, camber and castor track appropriate, roll stiffness dialled, a 5.1 final drive and a Cusco 1 way LSD. The lead driver is Junior, who according to my wife is my son. In addition to doing lots of track days at my expense, races karts at his own expense, drives for his university's FSAE team, and has a simulator in his bedroom. So a reasonable driver for a young bloke, and can put down consistent lap times.

    The car has been running a set of 205 40 17 Nitto NT 01's for the past two years. These are now well worn, but are still putting down good lap times, the car has been steadily getting quicker over the past two years on the same tyres. So the NT01's will be the point of comparison for the Nankangs, which is also useful as they are around the same price point. The AR-1s were $AUD220 per corner, about the same cost as NT01s. By way of comparison, the supposed "gun" R spec tyres are either Hankook TD Z221s or Yokohama A050s, depending who you talk to. They are roughly twice the cost of the NT01 or AR-1.

    The target time at Wakefield Park was 1:12.4, set a few months ago with the same setup on the NT01s.

    Onto the review. Firstly, some measurements. We couldn't get exactly the same size as the NT01, the closest in height according to the web site was a 215 40 17.

    605mm high vs 596mm for the 205 NT01, so about 9mm taller.

    209mm wide for the 215 AR-1, vs 199mm for the 205 NT01, so that difference is exactly the difference between the advertised widths for both manufacturers, although the recommended rim for the AR-1 is 7.5 inches, and we have 7 inch rims.

    The wear rating for the NT01s is 100, vs 80 for the AR-1s. As I'm sure you know, these numbers are not really comparable between manufacturers, but I was hoping that the Nankangs would be a bit softer, especially with the onset of colder weather.

    The Nankang:

    Looks to be about 5 points softer than the two year old NT01s:

    Tyres are like fish - best if fresh:

    These were manufactured in February this year, so reasonably fresh.

    Now for the not so good news, the weight:

    That's 17.5 KG for the rim and tyre, a full 2 KG heavier than that 205 NT01. And it's the worst kind of weight on a race car, rotating weight. So I was expecting that's going to hurt. Also, we could not get any data from the importer, they couldn't tell us anything about target hot temperatures or pressures.

    Going non scientific for a minute, how do I feel about these tyres, based on the above? If I was a betting man, I'd say the extra weight of the AR-1s is going to offset any gains from the fresh rubber, given our lightweight and underpowered car.

    But we will see what the stopwatch has to say.

    Went for a run in a Targa Prepped Evo 8(?) at the local Rallysprint a couple months back. (For the WA guys, was Matty Palmer from AutoPro Canningvale) While it was his first time out on those tyres, Matt is a very handy guy behind the wheel.

    We went for back to back runs, with him pushing about 85-90% (considering we were laughing n talking shit) and the tyres, held up very, very well.
    The back end slipped later than expected, but was very controllable and gentle when it did start to slide, and the fronts understeered when expected (trying to get the to push) He pushed harder on run 2, and they were better than run one.

    Would be very interesting to see how they stand up to repeated hard laps (5+) of Barbagallo, but for quick sprints, I know I will be using them over A050's, unless I win lotto soon.
    Emo 6 - Track
    '74 Mazda 808 - Daily/Resto project [SOLD]
    2010 Swift Sport of boredom


      This should be interesting, although I am shocked at the 2kg extra weight.
      Lots of minis & mokes including a G13b powered Sports Sedan, a couple of Swift Gtis, a Goggomobil, Porsche 928S, Polo Gti, BMW 540i, a WRX and a few others.


        I think I can chip in. Everyone says they go off after 4-5 laps. On my 1370kg and 300kw Commodore, they didn't go off at all. The grip level felt lowish no matter lap one or 10, but only compared to a full racing slick. Natsoft times for the last race of the day showed they did 3 consecutive laps (laps 4, 5 and 6) at 1:47.06-1:47.09 before dropping back into a 1:46.3. Then there was a little traffic 1:46.5, 1:46.6 on laps 8 and 9. So very close to the 1:46.6 that I did on lap 2. On lap 10 I couldn't pull up at T2, so had a little off. I will put some video if anyone wants.
        Oh, and on the start, I could beat all the guys on slicks off the line. Tyre size is 255/35/18.

        And they squeal pretty loud around the corners like a road tyre.
        NA8B 89KW- P.I. 1:50.1, WNTN1:38.0, SDWN 1:27.6, WKFLD 1:10.4
        NB8B 181KW- P.I 1:43.8, WNTN 1:32.9, SDWN 1:22.0, BDFD 1:05.3
        VP 293KW- P.I 1:43.8 WNTN 1:33.5


          This is the race start of race 4.
          I uploaded a few more videos from the weekend on Nankang's, so look them up in my videos on YouTube.
          NA8B 89KW- P.I. 1:50.1, WNTN1:38.0, SDWN 1:27.6, WKFLD 1:10.4
          NB8B 181KW- P.I 1:43.8, WNTN 1:32.9, SDWN 1:22.0, BDFD 1:05.3
          VP 293KW- P.I 1:43.8 WNTN 1:33.5


            Forgot to talk about wet grip. They had hardly any grip in the wet. I had to drive so slow, but the guys on slicks where even slower. About mid race, as I just about pulled up for T4 I locked the rears and slid to a stop on the track sideways. I restarted the engine and stayed in front to finish the race by 26 seconds to 2nd place.

            NA8B 89KW- P.I. 1:50.1, WNTN1:38.0, SDWN 1:27.6, WKFLD 1:10.4
            NB8B 181KW- P.I 1:43.8, WNTN 1:32.9, SDWN 1:22.0, BDFD 1:05.3
            VP 293KW- P.I 1:43.8 WNTN 1:33.5


              First day out on the Nankang AR-1s

              We arrived at Wakefield Park at about 8 am this morning, it was about 8 degrees Celsius and foggy. But.... there was no wind, and the forecast was for 18 degrees Celsius and dry, which is "perfect driving conditions".

              In the complete absence of any data about the tyre, and due to being inherently lazy, I decided that the starting setup for the car should be the same as what we were running for the Nitto NT01s, which is:

              Front: 1mm toe out, 5 degrees camber, maximum castor (not sure of the measurement), stock soft anti roll bar, 7kg/mm springs, shock damping fully open (minimum rebound)

              Rear: 6mm toe in, 3 degrees camber, 4kg/mm springs, anti roll bar disconnected, minimum damping.

              You will recall from the earlier post that the target time to beat was 1:12.4. I was told by my expert son (FSAE driver, karter, sim racer, all round smart guy) that in cold conditions it's best to run high pressures, as this makes the tread surface flex instead of the sidewalls, and gets heat into the tread quicker. "OK son, whatever you reckon..... you want to run 35PSI cold, go for it".

              There's a story here about old dogs and new tricks...... the track is barely dry, first session, and he puts down a 1:12.7. I'm not sure what the front pressures were, our guage only goes to 40PSI, they were above that after 5 laps, and the rears were at 38. So here's these brand new tyres, which we know nothing about, in the first session only 3 10ths off the PB. I couldn't believe it, at this point I was thinking "we are going to smash this out of the park".

              After 5 laps:

              And then things started to get tough. Next session we started dropping pressures in response to the obvious results from the tyre pyrometer, which predictably showed the tread centre running hot, and the times started climbing into the 13s, just as the air temperature warmed and the track started to rubber up. Not what we were expecting.

              After 15 laps:

              Anecdotally, we both felt like the car had more mid corner grip than on the NT01's, but this was not translating to lap times. As the day's temperature peaked, the car was starting to understeer, so we reconnected the rear anti roll bar, and finally started to see an improvement in lap times, with me getting down to a 1.13:3, a couple of 10ths improvement on my previous PB from last year. then in the last session at 3.30pm, the air temperature was starting to cool, and I had one of those "lightbulb moments". I had not had a single brake lockup all day. I wondered just how deep these tyres could go into a corner, and this was the last chance to experiment......

              In hindsight it's obvious.... these tyres are wider and softer than the NT01's, of course they are going to stop in a shorter distance. It was simply a matter of staying on the gas a little longer than we were accustomed to. My PR went down to a 1:12.5, but the car was capable of more, now that we had worked out how to exploit it. I handed over to Junior, and told him what I had discovered. It only took him three laps to get into the 11s, and on his second last lap, he put down a 1:11.3, 1.1 seconds faster than his best time on the NT01's.

              So in summary, after our first outing on the AR-1s, we are both very happy with them, and they have exceeded my expectations. I don't think they would be the best choice in the height of an Aussie summer, but in the cooler months they work well.


                Excellent review Sprinkles.
                That yellow beast looked on rails at Winton.
                BMW M140i daily. Honda Odyssey family car.

                Wakefield 1.07.386 (FG Falcon - Street Tyres 1.08.8) Marulan Short FG Falcon 43.4 SMP GP FG Falcon 1.48.1 Winton FG Falcon 1.35.4


                  Thanks for the review, i have been waiting for someone to do this and compare to one of the lower priced r specs. I have been considering these when my current tyres cease to exist, possibly after this weekend. Was kind of already sold on them on the bang for buck basis. Am fully sold on them now and will see how they compare on my 1500kg barge against the A050 that will be coming off.


                    Also, to compare lap times to a full slick on my car. I did a 1:46.2 on a damp track with the slicks vs 1:46.3 on a full dry track with the Nankang's and much better aero.
                    NA8B 89KW- P.I. 1:50.1, WNTN1:38.0, SDWN 1:27.6, WKFLD 1:10.4
                    NB8B 181KW- P.I 1:43.8, WNTN 1:32.9, SDWN 1:22.0, BDFD 1:05.3
                    VP 293KW- P.I 1:43.8 WNTN 1:33.5


                      Good review sprinkles, I used some 265 Nakangs at Eastern Creek recently and like you I was a little shocked by the weight of them, my 245 AD08r on 17s weigh 17kgs these 265 Nakangs come in at 21kgs on 18s. Thats 4 kg more each side for the poor old Civic to spin up, my car will spin 2nd up quite easily on the street not so with the Nakangs.

                      After battling a speed sensor issue and a broken throw out bearing shaft in the morning I finally was able to put in 8 hard laps at the Creek in the afternoon. Found the tyre very consist under brakes and they never let go once 1:53.2690 1:52.5440 1:52.1640 1:52.2010.

                      In my last session I dropped my tyre pressure down to 28psi for the inside wheel and 29psi for the oustside, did the trick 1:52.0280 1:50.0960 1:50.2250 and then a 1:49.7470. Not a pb for me as this was the first time at the track for this car, but not far off. Id rate them as a good budget tyre and I suspect the extra weight may be in the sidewall hence why a lower tyre pressure worked with my set up. Payed $225/tyre fitted and balanced thru St George.


                        Was that 28/29 PSI hot? And what does the Civic weigh?


                          with fuel around 1300kgs Sprinkles, yep those pressures are hot, I always check and adjust straight after the last session when theyre hot as. Cars making around 170kws at the wheels at the moment


                            Originally posted by Stevil View Post
                            with fuel around 1300kgs Sprinkles, yep those pressures are hot, I always check and adjust straight after the last session when theyre hot as. Cars making around 170kws at the wheels at the moment
                            Thanks Stevil, we might try lowering our pressures for next time. Have been running 36 hot to date.


                              In case you haven't gathered by now, there's a bit of time compression going on with this review, this all took place over several months.

                              Second outing at WP

                              We had our second track day on the Nankangs last weekend, and they are still going fine. No abnormal wear, and certainly no deterioration in performance, with Junior going 1 tenth faster at 1:11.2, and me 4 tenths faster at 1:12.1.

                              Conditions were similar to last time, dry and pretty cool with a maximum temperature of 14. The fast times were set late in the day.

                              Third track day at WP on these tyres, they are still holding up well.

                              The track was very cold (taps frozen in the loo) when we arrived, and it was windy. Junior set a new PR of 1:11.1 mid afternoon when it warmed up to about 13c.

                              The instructor did a few laps and put down a 1.10.6, he commented on how much corner grip the car had.

                              Fourth track day at Winton.

                              First time at Winton, so we had no base line times, but were thinking we would do about a 1:45 lap. Both me and Junior did separate entries, meaning the tyres got the equivalent of two days use.
                              Best times for the day, set early afternoon, about 16 degrees, little wind:

                              1:40.8 – Junior
                              1:41.8 – me

                              After 5 track days, the Nankangs don’t even look half worn, and are holding up well