I thought I’d add a write up of the launch of the new Michelin PSS tyre that I attended last year. Michelin had been running the event all week for the press and also tyre retailers – I was there on the last day (Sunday). They said this is the first time that a tyre company had invited end users to a launch and they were trying it out to see what impact it would have. There were 32 of us there all chosen from different online car clubs representing their target marques. Although the competition rules stated that winners would be drawn randomly, they did say that people were chosen based on what they had written in the comments field of the entry. This surprised me as I simply wrote that I had only ever driven my 360 on Pirelli tyres and would love the opportunity to drive a different tyre.
The day was at the Porsche Experience Centre on the edge of Silverstone. The facility was very good and the staff very welcoming and professional. The day started with breakfast which was so good I had seconds. After breakfast we had a briefing from a few Michelin staff. It was mostly press guff about the tyres and how good they were, etc. They did show us the graphic below that illustrated how much the tyre had advanced from the PS2 tyres it replaces.
We then went onto the dry handling circuit – there were four 997 C2S cars, two fitted with Michelin, one with Dunlop and the other with Bridgestone. I did notice that the Michelin cars had carbon brakes, lighter wheels and sports seats whereas the other cars had steel brakes, standard wheels and sofa seats. The guy from Michelin went to great lengths to show us that the tyre pressures on all of the cars were equal (this seemed a little odd to me as on the 360 different tyre brands have different recommended pressures). My question about the difference in unsprung weight between the Michelin and competitor cars was politely ignored but did draw the attention of the senior instructor who took me out on the course.
The course was superb, if a little short. We went out in a Michelin shod car first. Straight away the instructor pointed out two mistakes I kept making, one I knew about and the other I didn’t but now seems obvious (the former was my tendency to turn in too soon and the latter was that I came off the brakes too harshly which suddenly transfers the weight backwards). After making the corrections I soon got into the hang of the track but the instructors was constantly reminding me that I was here to get a feel for the tyres, not set a lap record!
Next it was out on the Bridgestone shod car. One the first corner I could tell there was a clear difference between the tyres. It took a few more laps to pinpoint – the bite on the initial turn in was (comparatively) terrible. It felt like the tread blocks where shifting a touch before gripping and sending the car round the corner. I’ve never tested two tyres back to back like this before and have to say I was very, very impressed.
We then made our way to the canteen area where we had a chat with Tim Harvey and a bloke from Michelin. It was an interesting session but it was clear that they were pumping us for info (not in a bad way at all).
Next we were lured over to car park 50 with the promise of biscuits. Wet braking was demonstrated in two BMW 325 auto’s (Michelin vs Pirelli). We drove up to speed where the instructor would activate the pre-set cruise control at 80kph. We then drove into the braking area where we slammed the brakes on. A data logger recorded the distance it took to get to 20kph. To be honest I couldn’t feel this difference between the two tyres under such extreme braking conditions but the data did show the Michelin was pulling up shorter for me by about 1.5m.
I then drove a TT fitted with Continentals around a wet circle followed by a Michelin shod car. It was apparent that the Michelin tyre allowed me to go faster without the car feeling like it was breaking away.
Lunch was next (delicious).
We then went out onto the circuit again, in cars all fitted with Michelins. I started off in a 997 GTS and went onto the low friction circuit to practice my powerslides. Once these were perfected I had an opportunity to go on the kick plate. This was an area of polished and wetted resin. As you drive onto it you go over a plate which moves sideways as the rear wheels are passing over. Depending on the severity of the kick and the entry speed I either went sideways followed by a smooth gain of control or simply span wildly to the end of the area.
I then switched to a Cayman R. The instructor owned one of these himself and was keen for me to try it out so I went for quite a few hot laps on the dry handling circuit before onto the low friction area and then the kick plate. I learnt quite a lot of car control from the sessions in these two cars but very little about the tyres.
We then went for a session at the Human Performance centre. I’m not sure if I’m proud or ashamed to have above average forearm strength but that was one of the parameters we measured. We also had a go on a thing called a Batak – flashing buttons that you have to press as fast as possible measuring hand eye coordination and peripheral vision. I’m pleased to say I posted the highest score of 43 in 30 seconds winning a model of a GT3. We also had a go on a racing simulator with the person posting the fastest lap winning a playstation 3 – I could only muster 1m6s which was well off the 58s winning pace.
After a quick debrief we were then taken out for passenger rides. I went out in a 997 Turbo S which was insanely quick. I had to leave but other guys had chance to go out in a Gallardo Balboni, M3 and another car that I cannot recall.
It was a fantastic day on so many levels. I was very impressed with the Michelin tyres, the people and the centre. Now I have 19″ wheels, I will be fitting Super Sports to them just as soon as the Corsa’s are worn off.