Big-time racers will always...
Big-time racers will always cut their tires for maximum immediate performance, but if you are trying to stretch your racing dollars, it is possible to groove and sipe your tires in a manner that actually increases their usable lifespan. Jeff Huneycutt
They say you can't have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes that's true, but there are times when you really can have both. We recently sat down with Weir Schankel of Van Alstine Manufacturing. Van Alstine produces tools to help maintain and modify tires, and its grooving and siping products are very popular among racers. Because of its relationship with several of the top racers in the nation, Schankel has worked with many of these racers on developing their tire programs.
When it comes to grooving and siping, many automatically think of cutting up a tire to within an inch of its life in order to get maximum performance for one race, or sometimes two. But Schankel says that with intelligent use of the grooving and siping tools you can actually prolong the useful life of a dirt race tire while also maintaining a good competitive level. In other words, at least when it comes to tires in dirt racing, you can sometimes have your cake and eat it too.
"The key," Schankel says, "is these tips are for racers who are racing as an avocation, not a vocation. These tips will definitely help you get more useful life out of your race tires, but they aren't going to help you get to that absolute bleeding edge of performance. This is for guys who want to use their tires several times before they are forced to discard them. If you aren't racing for a living and are struggling to make ends meet, these may be very helpful to you. But if you are racing for a living and willing to do whatever it takes for those wins, then you might want to follow a different tactic."
A grooving tool, like this...
A grooving tool, like this one from Van Alstine, uses a thin blade that is heated by an electric current so that it actually melts its way through the rubber of the tire. This makes the process of cutting grooves into a set of tires a whole lot easier. Van Alstine
Of course, tires are always one of the biggest expenses for any Dirt Late Model race team, and given the current economic climate, we suspect that there are going to be more and more racers willing to give up a little bit in terms of speed if that means the opportunity to make it to the track for another weekend.
Conceivably, these tips can help you produce a better finish if the dollars you saved from stretching your tire budget can be put toward something else on your car-or even your fuel bill to get to the racetrack. Obviously, most of the tips here are for dirt racing classes where cutting and siping your tires are legal, but even if you race in a class where they aren't legal, we still have a useful tip for you.
RegroovingGrooves are the large cuts in the tire that create the tread pattern. Siping-which we will get to later-creates the small slits cut into the rubber which may be practically invisible at a glance. The point of grooving a tire is to create edges. It is the edges of the grooves that bite into the dirt surface of the racetrack and give you much of your available traction, especially when the track is wet.
By using a variety of blades,...
By using a variety of blades, you can cut different size grooves easily. This allows you to widen a groove to get a fresh edge without cutting any deeper. Van Alstine
The problem is that as your rear tires accumulate laps the rubber outer surface of the tires wear and the edges of your grooves become rounded off. The rounded edges offer less "bite" into the track and traction slowly fades.
"What guys are doing after a race is to go in and cut the existing grooves wider to give them a fresh, new edge," Schankel explains. "When you are regrooving a tire, you really don't want to cut any deeper than the original groove than necessary. You certainly don't want to get down to the tire's casing; you always want to leave some rubber covering.
"So if you are recutting a tire, you want to remember that you aren't so much cutting to deepen the groove-although you are doing that a little bit-you are cutting to sharpen up those edges. So what you want to do is set up your tire grooving tool so that while you may be undercutting your groove a little bit, what you are mainly doing is sharpening up that leading edge.