Michelin Pilot Super Sport is “Fastest Ever Series Produced Tyre”
French tyre giant Michelin has launched the company’s latest tyre for the ultra high-performance segment, the Pilot Super Sport, at an event in Dubai. Attending the launch alongside Michelin representatives were spokespeople from Porsche and TÜV SÜD; Michelin said it had “worked closely” alongside the auto manufacturer – as well as with BMW M and Ferrari – in developing the Pilot Super Sport, meeting its “challenging original equipment specifications”, while the testing organisation has recently produced a comparative study of the tyre and its competitors, determining it as “the fastest tyre on the market”. The Pilot Super Sport will be available from January 2011. The tyre will go on the market priced at the same level as its predecessor, the Pilot Sport 2, an important point of comparison considering the PS2’s more than 200 OE certifications. The Pilot Super Sport achieved a wet braking distance 3m shorter than its predecessor (80-10kmh) in TÜV SÜD tests.
Group vice president Marketing, Passenger Car and Light Truck Product Line Gary Guthrie presented the launch of the tyre as a “leap forward” for the company, showing performance improvements “that might seem contradictory” in many areas at once, partially a result of the co-development with Porsche. Michael Haupt, manager of tyre development with the auto-maker said the number of tests required for homologation at Porsche included “dry handling and braking (which were stressed, though not at the expense of other characteristics), wet handling, hydroplaning, rolling circumference, high-speed running, wear, rolling resistance, noise and comfort”, all of which is designed for the “optimisation of car-tyre synthesis”.
Guthrie continued that the tyre had yielded both the top speed and the best dry handling in TÜV SÜD testing versus five leading performance tyres in sizes 245/40ZR18 Y and 235/35ZR19 Y, while in terms of safety the Super Sport braked from 80-10 km/h in a distance three metres shorter than Michelin’s Pilot Sport tyre. Guthrie continued that the tyre displayed “unbelievable longevity”, allowing drivers to do “50 per cent more laps on a race track”, a feature that dovetails with Michelin’s focus on greener tyre development as – in Guthrie’s words – there would be “fewer used tyres of which to dispose” and a “decrease in manufacturing energy” measured in terms of the life of the tyre.
The tyre’s “unparalleled combination of performances”, Guthrie continued, was a result of track to road technologies, particularly in Michelin’s recent 24 hours of Le Mans successes, where its tyres have shod the last 13 winners’ vehicles; in 2010, Michelin was able to reduce the number of sets of tyres required to complete the endurance race to 11 from 14, representing one of three new records set by the tyre manufacturer. Guthrie explained the reasons why endurance racing is currently the most important code of motorsport to Michelin: “we firmly believe in open, international competition, because Michelin is in motorsport for one reason, which is to advance the performance of our tyres. We believe that in a closed situation – as Formula One is today – our ability to use competition to advance our tyres is really limited. This is why endurance racing is so important to us: it is highly competitive, it’s open to anybody who wants to set out to try to beat us and it is actually much closer to the sorts of demands that sports car and road car drivers have.”
The VP said the Super Sport had “received an infusion of racing genes” from its endurance racing tyres, aiming the new product squarely at “enthusiastic drivers who may throw in a few laps on the track in addition to everyday driving.” Guthrie said Michelin saw worldwide growth coming in the UHP segment, including 30 per cent in Europe, 40 per cent in North America and a “five-fold increase in China”. Guthrie also suggested that the technologies used in the Super Sport would “filter down” through other Michelin product lines, where they were applicable, in the coming years.
Michelin’s new tyre contains three technologies combining to help increase its potential speed and the safety at which the extra speed can be achieved. The first is the presence of Ceinture Twaron in the tyre, which helps to distribute pressure more evenly across the tread. Twaron is a high-density fibre, used in other applications such as aeronautics, protective military gear, and sports such as tennis, sailing and mountain biking. It is highly resistant – around five more resistant than steel at equivalent weight – while also being lighter. Clearly this latter feature is useful in motorsport and everyday driving alike, since it helps to reduce the weight of the tyre, contributing to fuel efficiency and helping to improve speed. Its variable tension across the tread helps keep it tighter than relying on tension from the shoulders alone. Therefore pressure created by centrifugal force – a major consideration in taking corners faster particularly – is more evenly distributed across the tread, helping to make wear more uniform and increasing grip through control of deformation and the temperature profile.
Working in conjunction with the Tuaron belt is the tyre’s variable contact patch 2.0 – another new Michelin technology contained in the Pilot Super Sport – a feature developed using the latest digital simulation software used in the aeronautics and automobile industries. The shape of the tread changes in cornering, helping to spread pressure and consequently temperatures evenly across the tyre’s contact patch. Although the patch’s shape changes when cornering, the amount of rubber in contact with the road remains the same, explained Guthrie, at 170sqcm.
The final new technology utilised by the Pilot Super Sport is a Bi-Compound Tread once again originally developed for racing tyres. This innovation uses different rubber compounds on the left and right sides of the tread. On the outside fifth of the tread, a dry-specification carbon black-reinforced elastomer developed specifically for the 24 Hours of Le Mans is used, helping to increase the endurance and to increase traction in cornering. On the inside four-fifths, a high-grip elastomer “wet” compound enables the tyre to break through the water’s surface and adhere to the road. The effects of all of these technologies were shown to attendees of the launch on track at the Dubai Autodrome, where workshops were set up to demonstrate the impressive wet and dry handling and braking of the tyre on Porsche’s 911 Carrera 4S and other high performance vehicles.
Descended from Le Mans
The Pilot Super Sport is a direct descendent of Michelin’s motorsport tyres, particularly those used in endurance races, such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans in which Michelin has continued to experience great success in recent years. The tyre-maker has shod cars claiming 19 victories at the event, including the last 13 in a row. It has also experienced success in the American, European and Asian Le Mans series and the FIA GT1 championship, in which Michelin-shod vehicles have won a combined total of more than 20 manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles since 1997.
In the 2010 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Michelin tyres set three records: longest distance covered, highest speed attained and total mileage. The winning car, equipped with Michelin tyres, set a distance record by covering 5,410.71km. the car used 11 sets of tyres in all, meaning that each set covered an average of 491.88km. In 2009, the winning team used 14 sets of tyres and covered 5,206km; an average of 371.86km per set.
Britain’s Anthony Davidson, at the wheel of the number 1 Peugeot 908 hDi faP, completed four stints (46 laps) at an average lap speed of 3:21:917, which works out as 627km at an average speed of 243kmh. “It’s the first time that Peugeot and Michelin have accomplished four daytime stints and moreover at a very high speed,” said Serge Grisin, Michelin automobile racing manager. “This demonstrates the consistency of our tyres and the performance they deliver.”
Market Primed for Increased UHP Demand
As mentioned previously, Michelin believes the worldwide market is ready for increased ultra high performance demand. The manufacturer points to a broad-based 2009 TNS Sofres study of 9,000 drivers in five european countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom) as well as in Russia, the United States and China. Among the people surveyed, 20 per cent said that driving was very important for them and within this category, 68 per cent – across all nationalities – said that driving enjoyment was their top priority. What’s more, 62 per cent of them mentioned the important role that tires play in their car’s handling, and thus its safety performance. The Pilot Super Sport achieves a unique balance between safety and driving enjoyment that makes it suitable for everyday road use as well as the racetrack in demanding conditions.