Developing the FK452 – T&A talks to Falken
The successor to Falken’s flagship FK452 is now available in the United Kingdom. Deliveries of the Azenis FK453 began in May, and shortly before the range’s local launch, Tyres & Accessories had the opportunity to speak with Falken tyre development engineer Sven Kruse, who is part of the Japanese tyre maker’s Frankfurt, Germany-based engineering team. Kruse talked T&A through the company’s new top high performance tyre, and explained the differences those familiar with the FK452 can expect.
“The new FK453 is the successor to the FK452, however it is a complete new development,” Kruse shares. “We’ve designed the tyre from scratch.” The tyre development engineer says Falken decided to design a completely new tyre rather than evolve the FK452 as it wished to employ the considerable knowledge it has gained through race tyre testing at the Nürburgring. “We’ve developed the FK453 with new construction and new layers inside. It’s also got a new tyre shape – the FK453 is a bit rounder than the previous tyre but the shoulder area is a bit stiffer. This gives a better footprint, more rubber on the road. The compound we used in the FK453 is also completely new. It’s taken from our race tyres; we tested a number of tyre compounds using Porsches at the Nürburgring. Our compounders selected a mixture of 2-3 compounds that they found worked really brilliantly.”
In addition to testing conducted at the world-famous German race circuit using a variety of vehicles, Falken’s European team tested the Azenis FK453 on public roads throughout the region and private proving grounds, most notably Automotive Testing in Germany and at IDIADA. The “NUR-Spec” design the engineers came up with incorporates a more warp resistant casing and additional nylon-reinforced cover ply to increase high-speed stability. This construction is complemented by a rounder tyre shoulder, optimising pressure deployment on the tread area. Kruse is convinced that this all-new construction, paired with the compound developed for the FK453, justifies Falken’s decision to begin with a clean sheet of paper – a process that all-up took close to three years.
“I now have the FK453 on my own company car and I can say that it’s a big improvement on the FK452, especially in regards to wet grip, which is amazing,” he comments. “It’s greatly improved. Even the FK452 wasn’t bad – I had them on my car for two and a half years and they were very good, but the direct comparison between the previous tyres and the FK453 does show a real improvement.”
Falken reports that in contrast to the previous FK452, the new tyre’s dry handling has been improved by 25 per cent whilst handling on wet surfaces is enhanced by 30 per cent, delivering useful gains in control for lane changes and higher speed cornering. A combination of tread pattern and compound changes has led to an eight per cent reduction over the FK452 in braking distance on wet surfaces. To break the water film and deflect the water more effectively than conventional tread patterns, Falken has implemented three central tread grooves and integrated staggered sipes into the first tread bar on the tyre shoulder. In line with its other new products, such as the ZE914, Falken has increased the proportion of silica included in the tyre’s compound. The strain characteristics of silica offer a larger contact area and better grip for the same tyre diameter, resulting in stronger interaction with the road surface.
To achieve the lower noise levels now expected by consumers, even those running low profile tyres, Falken has also employed phase-shifted tread bars on the Azenis FK453. The rounder shoulder contributes to the significantly lower rolling and pass-by noise, the manufacturer shares.
Kruse reports that the entire Azenis FK453 range is now sold in Europe, a line-up that totals 62 sizes, including a 20-inch version. The FK453 is also available in Y speed rated fitments suitable for use at up to 186mph or 300km/h – the first time Falken has offered this rating.
Falken’s new flagship shares a numeric designation with the FK453CC 4×4 tyre, which was introduced at the start of this year. Kruse says this is no coincidence: “The FK453CC was developed together with the FK453,” he shares. “Our target was to produce a good, high speed tyre for heavy load cars. Most testing was done using Porsche Cayennes, which more than fulfilled the criteria of fast and heavy.” The FK453CC is available in 14 sizes for vehicles as varied as the BMW X3 and Mercedes ML. The same “NUR-Spec” design was utilised and, as with the FK453, a Y rated version is available.
As for the FK453, although its local commercial launch only began in May, the new tyre has already made its motorsport debut; Falken’s UK drift team is using the tyre in a bid to retain the championship its driver Matt Carter secured last year.