November 15, 2010
The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 quickly became a benchmark in the Max Performance Summer tire category when it debuted back in 2004. Its blend of road manners, taut handling and ultimate dry and wet grip has kept it at the top of the category for six years. It's a tough act to follow, even for Michelin.
But this isn't a story about the PS2.
It's about its long-awaited successor in the U.S., the new Michelin Pilot Super Sport, in development for three years. Without sacrificing the road manners and fuel efficiency of the Pilot Sport PS2, Michelin designed the new Pilot Super Sport to increase handling and braking in dry and wet conditions while improving treadwear on the road and at the track.
Impossible, you say? Ferrari doesn't think so, as they have already homologated the Pilot Super Sport as the Original Equipment tire on the breathtaking Ferrari 599 GTO.
Michelin dug deep into their bag of technology tricks in their search for performance gains. Like its predecessor, the Pilot Super Sport features side-by-side tread compounds across the asymmetric tread pattern. The outboard third uses a unique carbon black elastomer derived directly from Michelin's endurance racing tires used to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and provide high levels of long-lasting dry traction, while the inboard compound continues to focus on providing grip on wet roads. They have also worked hard to tune the contact patch during hard cornering. Michelin's Variable Contact Patch 2.0 improves footprint pressure distribution, aiding handling and improving treadwear. Part of this comes from how they have engineered the internal architecture of the tire, which uses Twaron, a unique aramid fiber, to control the shape of the tire as it rolls at high speed.
Since only selected Ferrari sizes are currently available today, Michelin gave several members of the Tire Rack team the opportunity to preview the Pilot Super Sport's dry and wet performance at the Dubai Autodrome in the United Arab Emirates. Built to FIA standards, this track would prove to be a great location for the Pilot Super Sport to stretch its legs.
Already homologated on the new Ferrari 599 GTO, Michelin is also working with BMW M and Porsche, as well as a number of independent tuners. Michelin brought in their lead test drivers who provided an overview of their experience tuning tires to suit the distinctive performance characteristics of each O.E. fitment. We were then treated to some exciting hot lap rides as they showed off the fruit of their labor. Watch for the Pilot Super Sport to appear on several other top sports cars in the months to come.
It was finally time for us to get behind the wheel and feel the Pilot Super Sport for ourselves. Wet cornering traction was demonstrated on a 200' skidpad circle, using Audi TTs. Compared with the Continental ContiSportContact 5P (select sizes available in North America) the car with the Michelin Pilot Super Sport displayed better ultimate grip and more predictable break away and recovery when it reached the limit.
Separate cars and a different competitor tire were used for dry and wet braking, using the ABS to help maximize tire traction as we performed panic stops from 55 mph. Using the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric for comparison, the Pilot Super Sport displayed an equivalent stopping distance in the wet, and a slightly shorter distance in the dry.
The most exciting experience was evaluating dry handling. Using a 1.1 mile section of the circuit, we drove the Porsche Carrera S fitted with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx and with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. While this wasn't a timed comparison, we did feel differences in steering, braking and cornering.
The Pilot Super Sport felt more responsive to the initial input of the wheel and carved down to the apex with more authority. Ultimate cornering power felt somewhat higher, too. The massive Porsche ceramic brakes made it easy enough to activate ABS with both tires as the car was hauled down from triple-digit speeds, but the Pilot Super Sport allowed for harder pedal pressure before engaging the ABS. Also impressive was the overall handling balance of the car fitted with Pilot Super Sport tires, which bolstered driver confidence around several decreasing radius corners of the course, and allowed the throttle to be picked up a little bit sooner as we accelerated away from each corner.
The Pilot Super Sport doesn't feel like it will challenge true track tires (like the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup), but it does feel capable enough to raise the bar in the Max Performance Summer category.
As icing on the cake, Michelin brought along a few of their favorite toys, also fitted with Pilot Super Sport tires. We were treated to ride along in some of the world's most sought-after super cars - AC Schnitzer-tuned BMW M3, Audi R8, Ferrari 458 Italia, Gumpert Apollo, Koenigsegg Agera, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes-Benz SLS, a 1,000 horsepower MKB P1000 Mercedes-Benz SL65, Porsche 911 Turbo, and more. The Pilot Super Sport proved stable, predictable and very capable of harnessing the power of these amazing cars.
As the sun set over the Dubai Autodrome, we were left to bask in the glow of a day spent blasting around the racetrack in amazing sports cars riding on an impressive tire. Scheduled to be released to North America in a wide range of sizes in the spring of 2011, we're looking forward to the opportunity to evaluate the Pilot Super Sport back at our Indiana headquarters on our Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive. Stay tuned for a full test report coming in 2011.
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