Just back from road testing the new Michelin Pilot Super Sport in Dubai and, it has to be said, this tyre really does change the game. How does shaving five seconds off a 2.7 kilometre lap sound to you? Hell yes! The tyre performs fantastically well in both
wet and dry conditions and has much improved longevity and safety. Which is exactly what we're all looking for in a tyre? Along with around 40 plus car enthusiasts in attendance, I can hand over heart say this tyre is groundbreaking.
Michelin have, of course, a wealth of experience and the authority to make this happen with their 13 consecutive years of Le Mans victories. What Michelin have done with this tyre is to tap into their experience and create something that is not only quicker and more predictable but better in both dry and wet conditions in any tyre I have seen before.
The Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyre was developed for dual purpose. To deliver the ultimate driving experience, while at the same time ensuring maximum safety, even in extreme driving conditions. The combination of driving enjoyment and safety performance proved paramount in the product development phase of this tyre and was conducted in conjunction with Porsche, BMW M division and Ferrari.
Well, here is my story of an estimated 10,000bhp, an empty Dubai race track and over £2million worth of cars. (Add to this my lack of any supercar driver skills whatsoever and you get the perfect recipie for a great day.)
Shaving five seconds off a 2.7 kilometre lap - Merci bien coup Michelin!
In track testing at a 2.7 kilometre circuit in Germany, the new Michelin Pilot Supersport shaved five seconds off lap times set by its predecessor, the Pilot Sport 2. The PS2 was already awesome anyway...so am sure you are in agreement that five seconds is a lot! So whats the marketing spiel? Actually there is none, even with my horrible driving skill and an inability to command my left foot to hit the break pedal, I was able to notice a real difference. One day I'll join the left foot braking club. One day.
The Super Sport offers the dry grip of the Pilot Sport 2 and the wet grip of the Pilot Sport 3, so it’s as quick as a Pilot Sport Cup, but with better wet surface water displacement. I would actually describe it as having better dry grip that the PS2 (if that possible), yet fantastic wet grip that gives you confidence in all conditions. We've all being there with the PS2 in the wet right? Fun - absolutley...scary? Quite often! The Super Sport solves this problem by offering massive grip and feel in both wet and dry conditions. All good so far!
Now this isn't being copied and pasted from some press release...or something I heard. I was there. And jumping from a Carerra S (such a tight car) running a competitor tyre to another exact specked Carerra S running the Super Sports I was very impressed with the noticeable performance improvement. It really hit home that something we all tend to forget, the tyre is what's connecting you to the ground and the most important safety and performance tool you have at your disposal.
For me it was all about confidence. Others on the day agreed that, when taking a car to the limit, the Super Sport really allowed you to push with confidence, while at the same time gave you warning when you were about to go over the edge.
As this tyre has been developed with Porsche, BMW M and Ferrari, Michelin had laid on some amazing machines for us to test the tyre with.
£2million of Metal 10,000BHP
Picture walking out onto the Dubai Autodrome track with around £2million pounds worth of metal and you get the idea. £2million is of course not that hard a figure to reach when you include a Koenissegg and Gumpert. Michelin made a real effort to get their message across and put together some great workshops for us all to fully understand what we should look for and expect from tyre testing. This ensured we got the maximum enjoyment from this tyre testing experience. It made the day so much more focussed, although I have to admit that I had one eye on the presentation and one on the shiny white 911 Turbo that seemed to be calling out to me. (I've become somewhat obsessed with the Turbo's side air intakes of late, and yes I acknowledge this is rather sad).
We started the day off with a combination of wet and braking tests. After a quick safety brief, we jumped into the first car of the day, the Audi TT (such a nice drive) round a wet oval track. The instructors gave us fantastic guidance on what to look for and really encouraged us to push the tyres as hard as we could. We then tested breaking distance by driving at 85 kmph and hitting
the brakes as hard as we could. My ability to be rubbish at driving fast, and now apparently rubbish at braking is becoming slightly depressing.
We completed both exercises in the Super Sports and competitor’s rubber to give a fair balanced view. Michelin engineers were monitoring the results of what was an incredibly varied group of drivers and the results were plain to see. The Super Sports out-braked and held grip noticibaly better that their competitors. Simple. I have to say the results would have been even better if the sight of a Merc SLS in the distance hadn't made me lose concentration and forget to brake, the poor road cones did not survive our altercation. Yes...the Super Sports are great for killing road cones too.
The next session involved us completing two hot laps in a Super Sport clad Carerra S, followed by two hot laps in a competitor clad S, then back to the Super Sport kitted out car. Again, for me it was all about confidence. Now I'm no racing driver. Heck, I get nervous in anything over 100bhp, but in the Super Sport car I really felt able to relax and drive harder into the bends. Yes, I still had some moments where I nearly lost it, but these were few and far between and definitely down to my driving rather than the car. Jumping from the Super Sport to the competitor brand completely changed the driving experience and I was noticeably more cautious entering and exiting bends.
Keeping my Lunch Down...just.
After a spot of lunch and some great conversation with other like minded car enthusiasts from all around the world (and yes you could spot the Porsche guys a mile off), we headed to the main area of the track and the pit lane. We were all pointed to the safety room, (slight diversion was called for after spotting a Koeniggsegg, Gumpert Apollo, Mercedes SLS) to be told that the afternoon session would be two fold. Part 1 - out with Michelin Test Pilots. Part 2 - free reign of cars and track. The atmosphere in the room was hilarious as around 40 grown men started jumping around and behaving like thirteen year old boys, while trying to remain 'cool'. Of course, we all remained professional and focussed. It was all about the tyres ;o)
I managed to grab a hot lap or two with a Porsche Test Driver in a Carerra S, along with an AMG Test Driver in the new SLS (I couldn't resist) and I have to say, this was both scary and educational at the same time. Both drivers took great care to 1. not kill me, and 2. explain how they tested the tyres. I learnt alot from this session with the Porsche driver explaining what Porsche demand of their tyre performance. Next time you walk into the tyre shop or your dealer to make tyre choice, rest assured that Porsche have developed and researched which tyre suits which model extensively. Price becomes almost irrelevant! All this made a lot of sense and again it hit home just how important tyre choice can be. I would now 100% say that tyre choice can massivly affect the driving experience.
After getting myself together and somehow managing to keep my lunch down, it was onto the next session. Picture 40 grown adults standing in front of around 20 cars including: M3, Lambo Gallardo, Merc SLS, Audi R8, 997 S, 997 Turbo, TTS, Tuned Mercedes (1015bhp anyone?!?!), and even the new B5 Alpina family car (which was freaking amazing actually and I want one). I have to say that this was one of the most surreal experiences I've had in my life. So...what to choose? Time seemed to stand still (I panicked) and as I heard 20 car doors clunck shut and an estimated 10,000 bhp rev in front of me I realised I'd been frozen to the spot as everyone else hopped into their car of choice!! Bollocks. Oh well, at least the weathers nice. Time for some photos of the track.
Eeek..a bloody corner!
Not to worry as, around 10 mins later they all came back into the paddock and I jumped into a 997 Turbo. Heart beating, and after a slight fashion misdemenour with helmet / Ray Ban combo I was ready to go. The track was hot and the cars even hotter, but as I said a prayer and nailed it out of the pit everything was good in life. Then...bang, a bloody corner! The first corner after the main straight is tight. Tighter than I thought, and I hit it harder that I meant to. The turbo is so stable anyway, but my entry speed was way beyond what I'd call my limit. However, the car stuck. I made it round with a yelp and a shriek and nailed it towards the next corner. Phew! What saved me? Was it prayer in the pit? Possibly. Was it the tyres? Probably. However, looking back, it wasn't some crazy injection of new found driving ability or divine intervention that stopped me from crashing a £130k Porsche turbo, it was the tyres. So much grip and control.
The next couple of hours of the day were a dream, with hot lap after hot lap in the car of your choice. As the sun set, and the layout of the track was embedded in my mind, I just settled down and enjoyed the experience. With so many cars on offer, I couldn't resist playing in some other models too and with my own personal need (or at least the wife’s need) for boot space and baby seat, special compliment to the new B5 Bi-turbo Alpina. Tell you what though...I always went back to Porsche. Most exciting car of the day? 997 Turbo. Without a doubt. My new problem? Can I sell my house and buy one without said wife finding out.
After what was a massively enjoyable and educational day, the conversation returned to the real point of the day. The new Michelin Pilot Super Sport. So is it game changing?
In my experience, I would say yes. The combination of wet and dry performance was obvious to both experienced and inexperienced drivers alike. From my own experience, and testing by independent organisations such as the TÜV Rheinl nd Group, along with the feedback from those I discussed this with over dinner, these tyres really are a massive advance in performance.
Congratulations to Michelin for engineering the tyres and for making advances in the field.
Where to buy Michelin Pilot Super Sports
We have being doing some research and speaking to other drivers and here are the two best places to pick up these group breaking tyres.
- If you are in the USA then we highly recommend shopping for Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires at Tire Rack.
- If you are in the UK, then we highly recommend shopping for Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres at mytyres.co.uk
Now for the techy bit!! All you tyre nerds ready?
To improve the tire’s road-holding and braking ability and thereby its overall safety performance, even in the most extreme conditions, while also providing excellent mileage, Michelin has uniquely combined three technologies, including two developed
for tyres used at the 24 hours of Le Mans: the Twaron® fibre belt as well as the bi-compound tread band and the variable contact Patch 2.0, both of which were derived from innovations validated and used in endurance racing. The combination has produced exceptional results that are likely to win over the most demanding manufacturers of cars in the ultra high-performance segment.
As a result, the new Michelin Pilot Super Sports tyre has key advantages that enable it to rise to the challenge posed by its predecessor, the Michelin Pilot sport PS2, which was certified as original equipment on more than 200 vehicles.
In a test conducted in 2010 by TUV, The Michelin Pilot Super Sport outperformed its five leading competitors in speed and dry road-holding the independent testing organization, using size 245/40 ZR 18 y and 235/35 ZR 19 y tyres.
Originally developed for racing tires, the innovation of bi-compound tread uses different rubber compounds on the left and right sides of the tread.
On the outside, a unique, carbon black-reinforced elastomer (developed specifically for the 24 hours of Le Mans) ensures exceptional endurance when corners are tight.
On the inside, a latest-generation, high-grip elastomer enables the tyre (on wet surfaces) to break through the water’s surface and adhere to even the slightest irregularity in the road.
Variable Contact Patch
Thanks to the latest digital simulation software used in the aeronautics and automobile industries, pressure, and consequently temperatures, are spread evenly across the tire’s contact patch. Although the patch’s shape changes when cornering, the amount of rubber in contact with the road remains the same. This helps prefent overheating and gives consistent and predictable grip.
It's all about the Twaron® Belt!
A high-density ultra light fibre used in cutting-edge equipment for sports such as tennis, sailing and mountain biking – as well as in aeronautics, protective military gear and motorsports – Twaron® provides the Michelin Pilot Super Sport with superior high-speed stability.
Due to its variable tension, the belt tightens the tread more than the shoulders. as a result, centrifugal force is more effectivelyovercome and pressure is more evenly distributed. A key feature of Twaron® is its high grip-resistance. Strong and light at the same time, Twaron® is five times more resistant than steel at equivalent weight.
So, when can I get one, and will they fit my car?
The tyres are due out early 2011 and will be initially released in the following sizes.
Tyre size range
225/45 ZR 18 (95 Y) XL
245/45 ZR 18 (100 Y) XL
245/40 ZR 18 (97 Y) XL
265/40 ZR 18 (101 Y) XL
225/40 ZR 19 (93 Y) XL
225/35 ZR 19 (88 Y) XL
235/35 ZR 19 (91 Y) XL
245/35 ZR19 (93 Y) XL
255/35 ZR 19 (96 Y) XL
265/30 ZR 19 (93 Y) XL
275/35 ZR 19 (100 Y) XL
275/30 ZR 19 (96 Y) XL
295/30 ZR 19 (100 Y) XL
305/30 ZR 19 (102 Y) XL
235/35 ZR 20 (92 Y) XL K1
255/35 ZR 20 OPEN ZR
275/35 ZR 20 OPEN ZR
275/30 ZR 20 OPEN ZR
285/30 ZR 20 (99 Y) XL K1
285/30 ZR 20 OPEN ZR
285/25 ZR 20 (93 Y) XL
295/25 ZR 20 (95 Y) XL
295/35 ZR 20 (101 Y) K1
295/25 ZR 20 (95 Y) XL
315/35 ZR 20 (110 Y) XL K1
345/30 ZR 20 (106 Y)
255/30 ZR 21 (93 Y) XL
265/30 ZR 21 OPEN ZR
295/30 ZR 21 OPEN ZR
295/25 ZR 21 (96 Y) XL
235/30 ZR 22 OPEN ZR
265/30 ZR 22 OPEN Z
Where to buy Michelin Pilot Super Sports?
If you are in the USA then we highly recommend shopping forMichelin Pilot Super Sport tires at Tire Rack.
If you are in the UK, then we highly recommend shopping forMichelin Pilot Super Sport tyres at mytyres.co.uk
Honest John has put together a great video from the day which can be checked out here:
Michelin website also has further information at http://www.michelin.co.uk/tyres/