Even the Best Street-Legal Snow Tires Are No Match for Studded WRC Rally Tires

Our favorite tire reviewers put the street-legal Pirelli Ice Zero 2 up against the gnarliest tires in professional rally racing. You can guess the winner.

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Subaru rally car with two different tires in front of it
Screenshot: Tyre Reviews

Recently, Tyre Reviews got its hands on a set of Pirelli Sottozero designed for racing, as well as a Subaru rally car. That sets the stage for an incredibly entertaining comparison test between those WRC tires and some of the best street-legal studded winter tires on the market: Pirelli Ice Zero 2s. But the question wasn’t whether or not the Sottozeros would perform better than the road tires. It’s how much better they’d be.

You don’t have to know much about tires or driving to guess that a $2,000 racing tire with studs that stick out 7 mm is going to have more grip in snow and ice than a $600 tire that has to follow regulations about road wear. That just makes sense. But even so, seeing the two compared side-by-side illustrates just how wide the performance gap really is. Spoiler: It’s a lot.

During the snow test, the host was able to lap the test track in 67.3 seconds with the Ice Zero 2s. On the Sottozeros, that time dropped to 59.1 seconds. That’s more than an eight-second improvement. And in the ice test, the difference was even more staggering. Switching to the rally tires dropped his lap time from 51.0 seconds to 33.1 seconds, which is nearly 18 seconds quicker. That’s, what, a 35 percent improvement? Absolutely bonkers.

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The video does a great job explaining all the differences that make the rally tires perform so much better, but the best part might be that it’s not shot in a studio. It’s shot at the test track, which means in addition to learning a little more about tires, you also get more than eight minutes of sweet Subaru rally car footage. If that doesn’t get your interest, I’m not sure what will.

$600 Winter Tires vs $2000 WRC Rally Tires