The key here — and why we think it was a ballsy move on Cooper's part to let its tires get tested on an open-wheel car — is that there is barely any suspension travel and no boost to the steering or braking. That means everything you feel, and hear, is from the tires.
Now, 140 hp doesn't seem like a lot of energy, but on a power-to-weight level, the Lucas car feels about as fast as a Corvette Stingray. Taking off, we didn't get a lot of wheelspin from the Coopers, except for when we spun out and had to get pointed in the right direction. Yes, we spun out once. So all good there.
Braking was impressive, too. Again, these cars only weigh half a ton, but there were very few times we actually locked them up and saw smoke, even though the instructors were pushing to brake harder the entire day. The tires also didn't seem to need a lot of warm-up to get sticky — maybe a lap and a half — and didn't drop off too much either after 30 minutes or so of constant lapping.
Once we were comfortable in the car, the RS3-G1s felt extremely connected in the corners — you can see more than 1g of grip in the video readout — translating a lot of what was going on to our hands on the wheel.
Unfortunately, there's less of that on a street car, considering the main goal of auto makers is to tune that “feel” out. One thing we can say for sure: There's no better feeling in this world than almost losing control in a high-speed turn and then regaining it. And these tires allowed us to do that every time but the last, when Indy Lights driver RC Enerson was hot on our tail and we were pushing for our fastest lap of the day.
Whether the front or rear tires, breakaway was predictable and controllable. That's important when you're right at the traction limit, looking for another tenth of a second, or in an emergency situation on the highway.
And to top it all off, the RS3s barely looked used at the end of the day. Your mileage, both literal and metaphorical, will vary.
Jake Lingeman is road test editor and reviews cars, reports on car news, car tech and the world at large for Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.