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- Mud Flaps
- Engine Tuning
June 2, 2002
Michelin Pilot tires are used as Original Equipment on some of the world's fastest cars. For that matter, since 1937, Michelin has used the Pilot name to identify many of their high-speed, low profile tires. Additionally, the Pilot name is also used in Europe to describe a person whose driving expertise far exceeds that of mere vehicle operators. The result is that the Pilot name is associated with both Michelin tires that provide performance, as well as, the exceptionally skilled drivers who can utilize that performance when really driving their cars ... instead of merely operating them.
Within the Pilot family, Michelin offers several types of Pilot Sport tires, each with its own performance characteristics and priorities. Beginning in 1999, Michelin introduced the Pilot Sport Max Performance "summer" tire for Original Equipment and replacement applications. In spring of 2001, the Pilot Sport A/S Ultra High Performance All-Season tire was introduced as a replacement tire for drivers who live in areas where light snow traction is desired. In the fall of 2001, the Pilot Sport Cup Streetable Track & Competition tire became available for drivers who compete in autocross and road racing events or participate in race track driver schools and lapping days.
In order to get a better understanding of the performance provided by the different Pilot Sport tires, Tire Rack Team conducted a Performance Test Track Drive comparing the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup to the Pilot Sport and Pilot Sport A/S. We used the 225/45R17 sized tires mounted on 17"x7.0" wheels. This package was fitted to three 2001 Lexus IS300 sport sedans equipped with Eibach Pro-Kit Sport Springs and KONI Sport shock absorbers. Because of the "track only" nature of this test, the KONI Sport Shock Absorbers were adjusted to their firmest settings to more effectively control the IS300's suspension movements and body roll.
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup
The Pilot Sport Cup is Michelin's Streetable Track & Competition tire and was developed for serious drivers by incorporating some of the technology used in Michelin endurance racing tires. And while Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires are designed to increase driving excitement by providing class winning traction and handling, their durable construction also allows them to be driven to and from competition events.
With tread compounds mixed in the same plant as Michelin race tire treads, the Pilot Sport Cup incorporates the use of two tread compounds applied to the tire in zones. The outer zone tread compound is optimized for dry traction and handling, while the inner zone tread compound focuses on wet traction. These compounds are molded into a 6/32" deep asymmetric tread design that features a massive outer shoulder rib to enhance steering response and cornering stability while circumferential grooves and independent tread blocks are used on the inner portion of the tread design to enhance damp track traction.
Internally, the Pilot Sport Cup features two, full-width steel belts reinforced with Michelin's Banded At Zero (BAZ) technology to stiffen the tread area and help prevent the contact area from distorting during aggressive acceleration, cornering, braking and high speed use. The Pilot Sport Cup radial's basic sidewall materials and architecture have been carried forward from Michelin's Pilot Sport line of Max Performance tires although Michelin fine tuned some sizes where necessary to optimize the internal architecture for track duty.
On Tire Rack's test track in the dry, the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup provided the exceptional performance necessary to turn the fastest lap times of the three tires by a wide margin. It provided noticeably more traction and faster response than was available from the other two tires, and its predictability allowed it to handle at the limit much like a great street tire rather than a "peaky" racing tire, which made it relatively easy to drive at very high limits. Additionally, the Pilot Sport Cup tread compounds showed that they maintained consistent traction from our test day's start to finish by running equivalent lap times throughout the day (and over 100 laps of our test track).
If there was a single word spoken by our team members as they got out of the Pilot Sport Cup tire-equipped car as they completed their run, it was "WOW"!
The Pilot Sport Cup is North America's first experience with a Michelin Streetable Track & Competition tire. While Michelin offered such tires in the early '90s, they were only available in Europe. The Pilot Sport Cup is currently used by Porsche drivers for track events in Europe and its predecessor, the Pilot SX MXX3 Cup, was used in the Venturi Cup in France and as an OE option for Bugatti EB110. For that matter, the FIA top speed record for a production car record during that era was set on Pilot SX MXX3 Cup tires fitted to a Bugatti EB110 S.
Michelin Pilot Sport
The Pilot Sport is Michelin's Max Performance tire, a position it achieves through state-of-the-art technology. The Michelin Pilot Sport is designed to complement the capabilities of exotic and ultra high performance cars and their drivers in the wet, while providing progressive handling, exceptional feedback and refined road manners.
One of the most obvious features of the Pilot Sport is its directional tread design, which features a continuous circumferential center rib flanked by high angle directional tread blocks. The continuous center rib sharpens steering response and provides communicative road feel while the high angle lateral grooves efficiently evacuate water from under the contact patch to resist hydroplaning and enhance wet traction, while reducing tire noise on dry roads.
The Pilot Sport's tread design is supported by two belts made of high-tensile, lightweight steel cords which are further reinforced by size-optimized, spirally wrapped nylon cord utilizing BAZ (Banded At Zero) Technology to improve quick steering response and resist distortion while they enhance ride quality and high speed durability. Ultra-reinforced sidewalls promote powerful cornering, while Michelin's cable beads help maintain the ideal shape of a running tire for better tire/wheel uniformity.
On Tire Rack's test track in the dry, the Michelin Pilot Sport provided very good traction and very responsive handling. It also was relatively easy to drive at the limit by providing more stable handling than was available from the Pilot Sport A/S Ultra High Performance All-Season tire.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S
On the outside, the Pilot Sport A/S features a "three compound tread" (a high dry grip tread compound in the shoulders; a balanced dry, wet, snow and cold tread compound between the shoulders and the tire's center rib; and a wet traction compound in the center rib). These compounds are molded into a directional tread design with a continuous circumferential center rib flanked by high angle directional tread blocks. The continuous center rib sharpens steering response and provides road feel while reducing tire noise on dry roads. The high angle lateral tread blocks enhance responsiveness and handling while the tire's circumferential and high angle lateral grooves efficiently evacuate water from under the contact patch to resist hydroplaning and enhance wet traction.
On the inside, two high-tensile, steel cord belts are angled to blend progressive handling with ride quality. The steel belts are reinforced with Michelin's "Filament At Zero" (FAZ) technology to further support the tread area by spiral wrapping an individual strand of hybrid Kevlar/nylon cable across the entire tread area under the steel belts, and then above the steel belt's outer edges. FAZ technology enhances tire wear and ride comfort along with predictable handling and high speed durability.
On Tire Rack's test track in the dry, the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S provided good traction and responsive handling. While the Pilot Sport A/S provided a level of performance that maintained its "best in class" status in the Ultra High Performance All-Season category, it couldn't match the traction level or the handling stability of the other two tires in the test and, as expected, turned the slowest lap times. However, the Pilot Sport A/S came closer to its Max Performance brother, Pilot Sport, than we had expected going into the test.