By Aaron Waldron
Slick tires are nothing new. In fact, it has been almost 20 years since racers at sticky indoor clay tracks started experimenting with sanding tread off of their tires for maximum grip. Like in full-size auto racing on asphalt, such as NASCAR, the adhesion comes from providing the maximum amount of surface area contact between the tire and the track surface. With no dust to penetrate or move out of the way, the slicks generate friction on what is often already a sticky track surface to begin with - generating more grip than any other tire and track combination (except sugar, and that’s debatable). Up until the last few months, however, running slicks on an off-road track required using a Dremel or belt sander to buzz the tread off of a tire, typically one with small pins.
Pro-Line released their “Prime” tire for 2WD and 4WD buggies in late December 2014, a racing slick with a small directional tread pattern. The surface is molded to be rough, like a tire that has been ground with a sander, shortening or eliminating the need to “break in” the tires. Just in time for the Cactus Classic, Pro-Line pumped out the new Prime SC and Prime T for short course and stadium trucks.
The Prime T is molded for 2.2-inch stadium truck wheels, and features the same tread depth as the Prime for 2WD and 4WD buggies - just one-thousandth of an inch deep. The pattern helps if there’s a thin layer of dust present, and the tires are available in both MC compound (which is what they’re using here at SRS Raceway) and M4 compound, which is the popular choice at nearby Warehouse 3.
Pro-Line’s Prime SC is made for 2.2”/3.0” short course wheels, and is also molded from either M4 or MC compounds. Unlike the tires for buggies and stadium trucks, however, the tread pattern on the Prime SC is two-thousandths of an inch deep - twice that of the other Primes. Pro-Line product development engineer Matt Wallace said that the deeper tread was intended to make the tall, tippy short course trucks easier to drive since they have so much grip on slicks already.
JConcepts first released the Smoothies in October 2014, offering 2WD front and 2WD/4WD rear tires for their 60mm 1/10-scale buggy wheels. The tires are molded as smooth slicks with only a seam down the center between the two mold halves, and until now were only offered in the brand’s clay-specific Gold compound. JConcepts founder Jason Ruona says that Green compound Smoothies should be available soon.
Though 2WD buggies were already covered, JConcepts will now offer a 4WD front tire too. The tire looks like a slightly wider version of the 2WD front, and the part number will follow the 2WD/4WD rears (#3109) and 2WD fronts (#3110), noted by the #3111 molded into the sidewall.
New Smoothies for short course trucks are molded for 2.2”/3.0” wheels, with a flat profile for maximum contact.
Stadium trucks will now also get Smoothies, molded for standard 2.2” rims. Like the short course tires, the stadium truck smoothies will first be offered in Gold compound. Green compound Smoothies for short course and stadium trucks are also in the works, but Ruona didn’t specify an expected sale date.
The final new item from JConcepts is a new cup-shaped shock stand, made of a molded plastic stand covered in a thin rubber cup with small teeth along the top to keep it in place.
The plastic stand holds four 12mm shocks upright for easy filling, bleeding, and cleaning, The rubber shield protects your work area from shock oil spills, or you can remove it and flip it upside down to hold shock o-rings and other small parts. The plastic stands will be offered in white, yellow, and black, and the rubber covers will be sold in your choice of black or blue.
AKA Products is the newest manufacturer to jump into the world of slicks, running prototype 2WD and 4WD fronts and rears this weekend that are still in the development stage - and thus missing any lettering on the sidewalls. All three tires are made only to fit the EVO wheels. AKA’s Brent Fiege said that as of right now, they will produce the buggy tires in Clay compound only - and there are no plans yet to make short course or stadium truck slicks.
The 2WD front tire has no ribbing on the inside, and has an equally smooth exterior.
Similarly, the 4WD front tire has no ribbing on the inside. This pair of preproduction tires has a noticeable seam of rubber flashing, but won’t likely be the case once they’re ready for sale - this pair will be trimmed and smoothed before hitting the track.
The 2WD/4WD rear does have webbing on the inside, intended to stop the tire from ballooning under acceleration.
AKA experimented with their harder black foam inserts in 1/10-scale a few years ago, when the material was used for their 1/8-scale buggy and short course inserts, so they’ve brought them here to the Cactus Classic to give them a shot. Fiege said that the foam will likely only be used at this race and they may never hit store shelves. This photo shows 4WD front and 2WD/4WD rear foams, but some AKA drivers are also running 2WD front inserts as well.
Panther Slicks 2.0
Panther was the first to offer an off-road slick tire, starting with the Burner Slick stadium truck tire back in the early 2000s, and they’ve revamped their lineup for this race with updated versions of the stadium truck tire as well as a 2.2-inch buggy rear. These tires were also molded using a new “Z” compound additive that they’re going to offer for all compounds: Clay, Super Soft, Soft, Medium Soft, and Medium. Panther’s Bill Koch says the Z-treated compounds balloon less under acceleration and provide longer tread life.
The 2.0 version of the slick rear buggy tire has a flatter carcass, and the radial ribbing on the sidewall has been removed.
However, the stadium truck Slick 2.0 still has the radial sidewall ribbing - but the webbing on the inside of the carcass has been removed.
Though U.S. races are still held on tracks made of dirt, rather than the astroturf and carpet of Europe and Asia, the evolution of off-road racing has certainly changed both the hobby and certainly the Cactus Classic - especially with the race moving indoors for the first time. One thing is for sure - bald is in!