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New Michelin Tires Tested at Zolder Race Track by Henny Hemmes

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Renault Mégane RS with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Tires

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

ZOLDER, Belgium - June 17, 2014: Tire manufacturer Michelin presented its latest state- of-technology during workshops at Circuit Zolder in Belgium, where we could also drive car models with new tire variants. We tested several cars equipped with the new winter tire Alpin 5 and SUVs with Latitude Sport 3 on public roads. On the track we tested two fast models on Pilot Sport Cup 2.

During the workshops, Michelin wanted to stress the fact that a tire is not just something round and smelling like rubber: “Research and development is an ongoing process, also for tires,” according to Per de Vries, Product Marketing Manager Benelux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxemburg), who works already some 35 years for the French based company. “A tire is a high tech product.”

Each year, Michelin’s development department spends 140 thousand hours on computer simulation and conception, while the test department carries out 1.5 million digital measures, executes 75 thousand static and dynamic tests and drives some 25 thousand miles with different cars. The total of life span and endurance tests means a lap around the world each 12 minutes of each and every day!

To accomplish this testing, Michelin R&D has a yearly budget of nearly $870 million and employs 6,600 people in 350 different professions. The entire Michelin Group employs in total more than 111,000 people in 17 countries.

Formerly, developing new tires meant focusing on braking qualities on a wet surface, fuel economy and external noise. A couple of years ago, the tire manufacturer introduced ‘Michelin Total Performance’ (MTOP), a strategic vision of the Group that brings together a slew of requirements such as braking on dry surface, wet and dry handling, cornering, steering precision, comfort, protection of the environment and longevity.

The new tires that were presented all have been developed under MTOPS. The Michelin Latitude Sport 3 is specially designed for SUVs. I drove a Volkswagen Touareg on the public roads in Belgian Limburg and noticed that the new variant has excellent grip. Also in the long and very fast bend that functions as an exit of one of the motorways in the area. Even during braking in this bend, the Latitude Sport 3 remains very stable. (Do not do this testing exercise this with your daily driver, please!)

Notwithstanding all the effort and time that Michelin has spent to offer us the opportunity to drive and feel its new tires, there was no comparison with, for instance, the 2nd version of the Latitude. And that is a pity. The new SUV-tire will be available in 18 different sizes for 17- to 21-inch wheels.

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MICHELIN Alpin 5 snow tire

According to Michelin, the Alpin 5 is the best tire for winter weather conditions, offering the best grip under all circumstances. In other words, the best blend of capabilities that can be offered. Usually winter tires are noisy, but I have to admit that the Alpin 5 is pretty quiet, and pretty comfortable as well. I am normally fairly skeptical about winter tires, but that may change… May, as we were only offered limited time and to be convinced I would like to try them a couple of days – not only on dry, but also when the roads are covered with a thin layer of snow.

Our braking exercise on a soaked part of the paddock proved that the braking distance of the Alpin 5 is shorter than that of the usual summer tire.

For maximum water discharge, a new direction bound profile has been developed. It has 16 per cent more slats than the Alpin 4, so that it covers a larger area, resulting in more traction on dry. The Alpin 5 is specifically designed for mid size cars and available in 27 sizes starting with 195/65 R15 up and including 225/55 R17.

Our test day also included a stint on the race track with the fast Renault Mégane RS equipped with the new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2. This tire has been especially developed for use on track days and is homologated for public roads as well. It will make life easy for many members of the SCCA (the Sports Car Club of America), who are so very active in club races with their road cars. With the Cup tires, there is no need to take an extra set of tires for track use.

The second generation Cup tire will last 50 percent longer than its predecessor and is also faster. The new tire has been developed together with AMG for the Mercedes-Benz SLS Coupe Black Series and debuted on this model last year. Furthermore, Michelin worked together with Ferrari (458 Speciale) and Porsche (918 Spyder and 911 GT3. We will see the Cup 2 tires also on other models like the Dodge Viper ACR and BMW M3/M4.

I drove the Renault Mégane RS, a fast Renault and could feel that the tires had very good grip on the asphalt that still was damp of the morning dew. Steering into the corner is very precise and stability was very good. Too bad that we could not compare this tire on the same car with the Pilot Sport Cup. They were fitted on Porsches GT3, but it would be like comparing apples to oranges. The Pilot Sport Cup 2 has been evaluated during test sessions on European tracks – in Italy, at the Michelin Technology Center in Ladoux and on the Nürburgring and up to 315 km/h (195 mph).

For additional information and specifications of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tire visit Michelin Tires.