The Bald Truth About Slick Tyres: Why Racing Slicks Aren’t Legal (Or Safe) For Everyday Use

Across Australia, car lovers are gearing up for racing season. GoldCoast Supercars and Bathurst 1000 are just weeks away; we’re in the home stretch of the Formula 1 calendar; and everyone’s favourite petrolhead party, Summernats, is only a few laps around the corner. Time to rev up the TV or livestream and settle in for some fast and furious action.

What it’s not time to do is get high on adrenaline and exhaust fumes and start adding customised features to your road vehicle that are only suitable for race cars. As Australia’s tyre recycling experts, BSV has noticed a concerning trend where car lovers are investing in slick tyres, or racing slicks, that were designed exclusively for use on pro cars.

Formula for disaster

BSV understands the need for speed. However, racing slicks are:

  • not legal for road use in Australia
  • not safe for everyday use, and
  • designed for use only by trained, professional drivers or by serious amateurs in race conditions.

Standards for tyres in Australia are set by federal laws (like the Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule) for passenger car tyres) and state and territory guidelines (like the NSW Roads and Maritime Services’ Guidelines for Alternative Wheels and Tyres). If your tyres don’t meet legal requirements, you could face serious fines and penalties. There are three key reasons why slick tyres are not allowed on roads under Australian safety laws.

  1. Slick tyres are not suitable for all road surfaces

Slick tyres are tyres with minimal tread. Their surface is smooth, without grooves, so they have high levels of grip and more direct rubber contact with the ground. This generates more power, which helps cars accelerate to crazy speeds in elite sport.

While this is exactly why slicks might appeal to everyday drivers … it’s also why they’re banned from everyday roads. Think about why you don’t deliberately drive with a bald tyre every day. The lack of tread means racing slicks wear out much quicker than other tyres and are highly unsuitable for gritty or rough surfaces.

  1. Racing slicks are not suitable for all weather conditions

An important function of tyre grooves is to funnel water away while you’re driving. You don’t need to be an engineer to figure out that without grooves, a tyre is going to have a hard time coping in the wet.

Racing slicks were invented to be used in dry conditions. One of the main reasons they’re illegal for daily use is because their smooth surface makes them slippery and dangerous in wet conditions.

Race tyres may not seem so slick if you start aquaplaning during a flash flood on a highway, or on a roundabout following a storm. There are tyre safety standards for a reason, and that is to protect people from unnecessary risks.

  1. Slick tyres were designed to be used by professional drivers

Watching the Formula 1 is always exhilarating, but the recent Belgian Grand Prix saw the tragic death of a 22-year old F2 driver. We’re not suggesting tyres caused the accident. But it’s a reminder that racing is a professional sport and drivers are elite athletes surrounded by experienced teams and world-class equipment.

You may have noticed how frequently tyres get changed during F1 and other pro races. This is because wheels are matched to track and weather conditions. Crews monitor these closely and replace tyres when conditions change.

We’d love to emulate our home-grown heroes like Daniel Ricciardo, but if you can only afford the tyres not the crew that goes with it – leave the slicks to the experts. It’s okay to use slicks and semi-slicks on a racetrack, but if you’re burning rubber in Marrickville not Monaco, you don’t want to break the law and put your life and other people’s lives at risk.

Slick solution

If you’ve just splashed out on a sweet new set of slicks that you now know is potentially dangerous on the road: don’t sweat it. It’s as simple as changing over any other set of tyres that’s gotten too low on tread. Recycle your slicks (and other bald tyres) the responsible way at BSV. At the same time, have a chat to Australia’s tyre recycling experts about the best tyres to use for a maximum road workout in a safe – and legal – way!

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