Do the cheaper alternatives to Alcon, Brembo and AP Racing offer mind-warping performance from the box? The short answer is no, but that sort of performance depends largely on how the brakes are used. If you were to apply stopping pressure with a budget brake kit and expect your eyes to fall out of your sockets, you would be sadly disappointed. In reality, the brake kits available to most consumers at fire-sale prices are effective but they aren’t going to give a street car the braking performance that will rival a prototype racer.
Where bigger brakes shine is in their ability to deal with heat, and as a result, deliver consistent braking performance, lap after lap. Even the shiniest big brakes that come stock on modern sports cars won’t deliver lasting performance one might assume. The reasoning for this has to do as much with the pads and the rotors as it does with the intention of said brakes.
Even if they’re the size of large pizzas, often factory brakes are fitted with materials best suited for cruising around town with the occasional backwoods blast. These traits place different demands on the pad and rotor than full-out racing brakes, which whine, lack response when cold, and sometimes spit out huge amounts of brake dust. Their specific, demanding nature make them a royal pain to use in traffic. However, it’s not as black-and-white as that.
There are a few videos of budget brake kits failing on the internet, and predictably, some people have grown wary of saving a few thousand when avoiding the wall comes into question. However, the idea of the budget brake kit isn’t something that should send people screaming into the night.
For a couple grand, a set bolt-on CC brakes offer some promise. With the distinguishing factor being the Project Mu HC800 pads, which are intended to operate at higher temperatures, braking from 60 mph to 0 isn’t all that impressive, but they are consistent — much more so than the stock brakes with upgraded pads. Therefore, their improved ability to stop on the street is negligible, but on the track, they’re well-suited for the task at hand.
There are plenty of questions people ask about the modifications they should make before taking their car to the track. Any coach worth their salt will advocate for better pads and tires — those usually do the trick, since the demands of a racing track, specifically with braking, are so different from those faced on the street.
For the avid driver who wants to test their bravery and chop their times down, a consistent, reliable brake system with some bite is what’s needed, and for a reasonable cost, they can be had from lesser-known names. Get a set, and test your braking ability next time you make it to the track, and as those brake markers approach, remember the words of Hans Stuck: “Flat out until you see God, count to three, then brake.”