Tire Rack was recently given first-hand access to Pirelli’s European tire development, manufacturing and testing facilities.
Firmly planted in the fashion capital of the world, Pirelli’s headquarters sits amid the style of Milan, Italy. Image may be everything, but power is nothing without control. Within Pirelli’s headquarters complex sits the development center, which is comprised of several floors of engineering offices circling in rings around a central courtyard overlooking an array of test machines. We saw how computer modeling can predict tire performance characteristics, and saw indoor test machines that push new designs to their limits, long before you put them through their paces on your car.
We spent the next morning at their Vizzola proving ground where wet handling, hydroplaning and braking tests are conducted. Here, drivers get down to the business of evaluating tire performance where it ultimately matters – on the vehicle. Basic ride and noise comfort over a variety of smooth and rough surfaces, and performance in wet conditions – braking, hydroplaning (straight and in-curve), glass plate footprint impressions and handling.
The track features a variety of intertwined paths twisted together into a nearly 2-minute loop. Steady-state corners are the feature, allowing the driver to easily evaluate ultimate grip, balance and stability. A rapid slalom challenges transitional capability and front-end authority. A unique feature we’ve never seen on any other test track is the up/down hill as a central feature of the course. Here, drive traction, front end grip and ultimate reserve capability are challenged under the dynamic of the changing elevation.
We had the chance to drive a few laps in wet conditions around the challenging course where every Pirelli road tire must pass muster before the design is approved.
Our next stop will be in Germany, where Pirelli has additional development, testing and tire manufacturing facilities.