Some three years in development, the new Michelin Pilot Super Sport is the long-awaited replacement for the class-leading Pilot Sport PS2 that has been a popular Max Performance Summer tire option for enthusiasts since 2004.
Michelin’s target for the Pilot Super Sport is to maintain the PS2’s good level of road manners and fuel efficiency, improve handling and braking in dry and wet conditions, while also stretching treadwear on the road and at the track.
Like its predecessor, the new Pilot Super Sport features side-by-side tread compounds across its asymmetric tread pattern. In the outboard third of the tread, Michelin uses a compound mixed with a special carbon black elastomer taken directly from the endurance racing tires used to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that helps provide high levels of long-lasting dry grip. A different compound is used on the inboard two thirds of the tread, which focuses on providing traction in wet conditions.
Michelin has further developed the behavior of the tire’s contact patch, equalizing footprint pressure to aid handling and stretch treadwear. Part of this comes from the internal architecture of the tire which uses a layer of the unique aramid fiber Twaron to control the centrifugal forces as the tire rolls at high speed.
The Pilot Super Sport has already been homologated by Ferrari as the Original Equipment tire on the stunning Ferrari 599 GTO, earning the 2010 Ferrari Technology Award along the way.
Since only select Ferrari sizes are currently available today, Michelin gave us the opportunity to preview the Pilot Super Sport’s dry and wet performance at the Dubai Autodrome in the United Arab Emirates.
With the Pilot Super Sport already established with Ferrari as an O.E. fitment, Michelin is also working with Porsche, BMW M and prestigious tuners to homologate the Pilot Super Sport on some of the world’s most potent sports and super cars. Michelin brought along their lead test drivers, responsible for tuning tires to suit the distinctive performance characters of each O.E. fitment. Their team provided insight into what it takes to develop a tire for each unique fitment and provided us with some exciting hot laps to show off the fruit of their labor. Watch for the Pilot Super Sport to appear on several other top sports cars in the months to come.
Finally it was time for us to get behind the wheel and drive the Pilot Super Sport for ourselves. First up was wet cornering, where we drove Audi TTs around a 200' diameter skidpad, comparing the traction of the Pilot Super Sport with a competitor. The Pilot Super Sport felt as if it provided some additional cornering grip, as well as more predictable break away and recovery characteristics.
We followed this with an ABS-assisted panic stop in both dry and wet conditions, using different cars and a different competitor tire. Here, the Pilot Super Sport provided a slightly shorter stopping distance in the dry and an equivalent distance in the wet.
Our favorite test was dry handling, using a 1.1 mile section of the circuit. We drove two Porsche 911 Carrera S, fitted with Pilot Super Sport and a competitor’s tires. We didn’t compare lap times, but were able to feel a difference from behind the wheel.
The Pilot Super Sport felt more responsive, and used its cornering power to turn down to the apex with authority. The massive Porsche ceramic brakes made easy work of the stopping duties. While we could easily engage the ABS with both tires, the Pilot Super Sport allowed for a harder application before triggering the anti-lock system. Also impressive was the overall handling balance of the car fitted with the Pilot Super Sport tires, bolstering driver confidence during cornering and allowing for a harder application of the throttle on corner exit.
We installed our RaceLogic DriftBox data acquisition system in the car with Pilot Super Sport tires, and found the tire + vehicle combination was pulling over 1.0 lateral g-forces in several of the corners (shown in red).
Michelin also brought along a few of their favorite toys to show off the capabilities of the Pilot Super Sport. Their test drivers provided hot lap rides in an AC Schnitzer-tuned BMW M3, Audi R8, Ferrari 458 Italia, Gumpert Apollo, Koenigsegg Agera, Lamborghini Gallardo, Mercedes-Benz SLS, a 1,000 horsepower MKB P1000 Mercedes-Benz SL65, Porsche 911 Turbo, and more. The Pilot Super Sport proved stable, predictable and very capable of harnessing the power of these amazing cars.
Scheduled to be released to North America in a wide range of sizes in the spring of 2011, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to evaluate the Pilot Super Sport back at our Indiana headquarters on our Real World Road Ride and Performance Track Drive.
Stay tuned for a full test report coming in 2011. Until then, take a look at more photos from our trip to Dubai on our Facebook page.