- Fast on Falken track event at Buttonwillow Raceway brings together approximately 50 cars to test the motorsport-inspired RT660 tire.
- The RT660 debuted in 2020; however, this year marks the launch of the complete lineup with 34 sizes now available.
- Interview with Falken’s Steve Wong reveals key selling points of the 200-treadwear Azenis RT660.
WELCOMING THE RT660
No matter what car you drive or how much power it has, one thing performance car enthusiasts can all relate to — and debate amongst each other — is their favorite tire. First, let’s be clear… there’s no perfect tire that exists as it’s impossible to engineer one with the ultimate handling and grip, the lowest road noise, the longest life, the best look, and the cheapest price. Tire manufacturers have the almost impossible task to engineer and innovate a performance tire with an optimum balance that appeases its customers. Falken Tire has excelled in the 200-treadwear sector for the last 10 years, offering asymmetric Azenis RT615s and continually updating its tread compounds with the RT615K and RT615K+. Most of us can remember this tire for having a great balance of track performance, dry handling, and longevity while still being cost-effective. After over a decade, Falken returns to the news introducing its next extreme performance summer tire with the Azenis RT660. Over the last year, it’s been a tire praised by track junkies to offer sharp steering inputs and strong grip, which has put it into the conversation with the best UTQG 200 tires out there. As we kick into the spring of 2021, Falken is ready with a complete lineup of 34 sizes ranging from 14- to 19-inch, and what better way to celebrate the tire’s successful launch than with a dedicated track day for industry partners and invited customers to test out the RT660.
FAST ON FALKEN IS BORN
Getting nearly 50 cars of all shapes and sizes outfitted on the same tires is no small feat, which is why I commend the folks at Falken for their diligent work with their first Fast on Falken track event. With a little over a month’s notice, I received my invite to Buttonwillow Raceway. It was almost a no-brainer to attend as I was very curious how the RT660s would perform. Add to that, it would be my first time putting my personal A90 Toyota Supra through its paces of the famous 2.68-mile Buttonwillow road course, home to Super Lap Battle Finals.
Note: Upon receiving the tires, I noticed that they easily run a size wider. My 305s looked more like 315s! Just a quick reminder to be buyer beware. Luckily for me, I could run the tires without rubbing despite the wider tread and beefy shoulder blocks.
As I arrived at Buttonwillow, I was pleased to see a very well-organized crew of staff and drivers. There was no need for an extended drivers’ meeting or even a PA announcer, for that matter. People knew the rules, their run groups, and the schedule.
My experience with the RT660 tires was phenomenal. I was previously running a set of semi-used Toyo R888R tires, which were sticky and grippy nonetheless but didn’t last long, especially out on the track (also extremely noisy for daily driving). The RT660s provided a ton of traction and felt solid and consistent lap after lap. At the end of four 20-minute sessions, I could tell there was still quite a bit of tire life left, which gave me a sigh of relief. The last thing I want to do is replace my tires every few track days.
There was an incredible vehicle range at the event with everything from Mazda RX-7s to front-wheel drive Hondas, Ford Mustangs to Porsche 911s, even Dai Yoshihara’s own Civic Type R-powered AE86 stretched its legs for a few laps. It was quite the sight to see, not to mention there was nothing but positive and constructive feedback murmuring throughout the pits. I chatted up several folks, and there wasn’t a single soul that had a complaint about the tire (and we’re talking guys that race regularly and have tested several brands and competitors prior). Would I personally buy another set of RT660s? The answer is most definitely, yes. The proof isn’t just my word but the word of several other attendees you can see from the photos. Certainly, if you do your due diligence and research other 200-treadwear tires out there, there might be a couple that score slightly higher marks. However, it’s not by much, and you can bet you’ll be forking up a bit more cash for those options than for the Falkens. The RT660s are going to be one of the best value high-performance tires out there. Just remember, you might want to scale down a size when you’re shopping.
INTERVIEW WITH FALKEN TIRE’S STEVE WONG
After the event ended, I caught up with Steve Wong, Falken’s Supervisor for Passenger Car Motorsports & Events, to help enlighten me a little more on the development of the RT660 and its most significant benefits.
I recollect the RT660 came out sometime last year, but can you elaborate on the development of the tire and how it evolved from the RT615?
We had a soft launch of the RT660 at the beginning of 2020 and a full tire size launch this year. It’s evolved from 17 sizes in the RT615K+ to 34 sizes for the RT660. It’s been a long time coming with multiple reiterations of the RT660. We made sure to test the tire in Okayama, Japan, and our proving grounds in Huntsville, Alabama. We wanted to make sure that the tire has the newest technologies on the market, has the grip, and can take a beating before finally releasing what you see today on the streets and the track.
Can you elaborate on a couple of the design features that make the biggest difference?
The RT660 has a whole new carcass design, which offers better torsional rigidity. This allows for quicker steering response and overall stability. With higher grip, we knew that prolonging tire life was key. Therefore, we went with a directional tread pattern so that consumers can dismount and mount them onto the other side of the vehicle.
Can’t complain about the longer life! Now, 200-treadwear seems to be the popular spec tire for many grassroots road racing series. How has the RT660 been received?
Our drivers in Optima Ultimate Street Car have welcomed it with open arms and have wins and podiums to back that up. We have an ongoing relationship with SCCA and the Solo Spec Coupe class, which is FR-S/BRZ/86 based. The RT615K+ was the spec tire there, but we have transitioned them to the RT660. In Gridlife, we saw multiple street records fall in 2020. With our RT660 gaining traction, we partnered up with Gridlife this year to create the ClubTR class, a subclass within their Track Battle, and is specific to the RT660.
You’ve had lots of track time in your own Civic on this tire, too, right?
Yes, I’ve always joked that ‘I bleed teal and blue.’ I assisted with a lot of testing on the 15-inch sizes, and I’ve learned a lot from driving on the tire as well as being able to communicate with drivers on the RT660. It’s great to be able to speak the lingo.
Any tips, advice, or words for guys that have used the 615 before?
If you’re an occasional HPDE driver and street drive your vehicle, the RT615K+ is still a great tire for those purposes. The RT660 is for those that have honed in their driving and are looking to step up and chase some personal best or compete.
We’ve discussed track use, but would you recommend this tire for a daily driver?
This would all depend on where you live and the weather conditions. At the end of the day, it’s a UHP summer tire.
In your opinion, what’s the RT660’s biggest selling point?
There are many tires on the market you can choose from. I feel our tire can run with the best of them, but I believe we can provide tier 1 performance at a tier 2 value.
Now let’s shift gears and talk about the Fast on Falken event. How’d the concept come up internally?
We wanted to have a fun way to gather all of our partners and have them try out our tire. Although it would have been great to bring everyone in and put on a ride-and-drive of sorts, the unfavorable variable would be that it’s in a vehicle that is foreign to the driver. After a bit of brainstorming, we decided to put on a track day/test-and-tune. What better way than to have our partners drive their own vehicles, which they know the ins and outs of, and supply them with our RT660s.
Explain the range of cars that you invited.
First and foremost, we wanted to invite our long-time partners, those who have been on the RT615K+ and have transitioned to the RT660. Secondly, it just so happens that most of our partners are also track rats, which wasn’t too hard to get them away from the office for some fun! Luckily for us, most everyone invited made it out to partake in our track day.
Have you organized an all-Falken track day before?
We’ve put on multiple ride-and-drives in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and our hometown of Fontana but have never done an all-Falken track day. This was our first venture into a track day.
What are the chances of another Fast on Falken event?
I’m in the process of locking down another day in late fall at another Southern California track. Will keep you updated!
Sounds awesome, and can’t wait to be back!