As part of Michelin’s launch of their updated Pilot Super Sport ultra high performance tire they invited Corvette Forum along to test their latest rubber.
The tires are available in a number of sizes (that may or may not fit your Corvette), and sport a lot of messages espousing not only their improved performance, but improved wear as well. Items like 12% better handling, lasts twice as long and better braking were all part of the marketing propaganda. The fact that they are 30% higher cost than the Continentals was not. Fortunately the event was more than informing us about how good their products are; Michelin had some vehicles shod with their new tires, as well as their most popular competitors (Bridgestone Potenza RE050A, the Continental ContiSportContact and Pirelli PZero). Did I mention we were at California Speedway?
In we jumped to a Lexus IS-F sporting the Michelin’s, and off we went to do a modified version of California Speedway’s road circuit. The circuit was setup well with a couple of good transitions, steady state corners and speed restrictions to ensure that we got a good chance to test out the hoops and keep the Lexus’ brakes (and Michelin’s insurance policy) in line.
We followed up the laps with back to back laps of the Pirelli’s, and I am usually a fan of their products, have them on my tractor, my BMW motorbike, and my bathroom wall (their calendar, not their tires) ? but the difference was startling. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the marketing numbers quoted earlier are against the Pirelli’s. The traction the Michelin’s provided at the front end was impressive – as it was at the rear, and when it eventually let go, it was a gradual affair that you could measure out with a little adjustment of the throttle. Not so in the Pirelli’s. It was obvious at the first corner when the Lexus? front end headed towards the wall like a bull to a red flag. Not so much grip at the front then? that’s ok, it made it up with a lack of traction on the rear, and I just couldn’t find the right amount of throttle on exiting the corners and ended up doing my best Ken Block impression with a simultaneous little giggle from me, and a few stern words from my instructor. My bum-o-meter says there is a significant difference between the lateral grip offered by both tires, but in particular the way in which both tires transition into oversteer ? the Michelin’s on the throttle, the Pirelli’s on a whim. Apparently about a Two-a-Lap difference.
We then proceeded to perform brake and autocross tests vs the Bridgestone and Continental respectively, both tests done in BMW 328i’s. I struggled to identify any difference in braking ? but the numbers were proving otherwise. The Autocross showed that the Michelin’s had a much stiffer sidewall and was significantly less ?wallowy? in transitions than the Continentals. Posted much faster times too. What was most surprising though was looking at the wear rate of the Continental’s was significantly greater than the Michelin, they looked like they should have been thrown out after a morning of Autocrossing, the Michelin’s looked like they would last the afternoon session as well.
All in all ? it takes some confidence to come to a model launch, with your most popular and successful competitors? products for a bunch of louts to pootle around in and try to determine the difference in their products. This lout could however, and would happily coin up the difference from the Continentals for the improvement in performance and tire life.