Exclusive Michelin tires make supercars even more super

Big horsepower is a wonderful thing but it's all for naught if the tires aren’t up to the task

Published: June 17, 2011, 3:00 AM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 3:46 PM

Michelin Tire Test - Supercars - Dubai

DUBAI, UAE — I have driven thousands of vehicles on roads and tracks. I’ve done 300 km/hr on the Autobahn, similar speeds on various test and race tracks in Europe, Asia and North America.

But I have never witnessed and/or driven a collection of exotic, expensive and extremely rapid cars as were assembled last fall by Michelin at the Dubai Autodrome.

The occasion was the introduction of the company’s new ultra high performance Pilot Super Sport, the world’s fastest series production tire.

Accordingly, Michelin assembled a variety of suitable exotics to demonstrate its tires:

• Alpina BMW B5 biturbo, 507 horsepower

• Audi R8 5.2, 525-horsepower

• Ferrari 458 Italia, 570-horsepower

• Gumpert Apollo, 650 horsepower

• Koenigsegg Agera, 900 horsepower

• Lamborghini Gallardo LP 570-4, 570 horsepower

• Mercedes SLS AMG, 571-horsepower

• MKB Mercedes SL65 Black Series P1000, 1015 horsepower

• MKB Mercedes 63/8, 581-horsepower

• Schnitzer AC63 Sport, 552 horsepower

Designed specifically for exotic sports cars and street-legal vehicles tuned and modified for ultra-high performance, it integrates the expertise developed in international endurance racing, specifically the 24 Hours of LeMans where the company has scored 13 consecutive overall wins.

You might not recognize some of those names. That’s because they are built-to-order and almost exclusive to Europe where sheiks and scions with immense amounts of money and the need to be different order them.

There is a reason Michelin chose this site for the event: These cars are "normal" there, including the $2.1-million Koenigsegg. Like the Gumpert, it is purpose-built. But the other unfamiliar names are high-end "tuner" cars as they are known in Europe, based on production vehicles.

Only in such company would repeated laps at speed in a Lamborghini seem mundane!

Prior to hitting the track in the exotics, we conducted a variety of instrumented tests in "lesser" cars that included the Audi TTS, BMW M5 and Porsche Carrera.

Michelin arranged a number of comparison tests on wet and dry surfaces between its new tire and competitors from Bridgestone, Continental and Goodyear.

During the instrumented tests my braking times on a dry surface with an Audi TTS shod with the Michelins were 1.4 metres less from 90 km/h than an identical car on the same course wearing Goodyear Eagle F1 Asmmetric tires, and 0.5 metres less for one on Pirelli P Zero tires. In wet braking the Michelin’s brought the car to a halt 0.5 metres shorter than the Goodyears and 0.1 metres less than the Pirellis.

On the skid pad in BMW M3s, the Michelins gave up at 63 km/h with ample warning while an identical car on Continental ContiSport ConTact 5Ps lost it at 59 km/h with little warning. Enough said!

After repeated acceleration, braking exercises and many laps on a wet skid pad it was time to hit the full track. It was my second visit to this track, which was built with no consideration for expense so I at least did not have to learn the layout. What I did have to learn was how to get the silly grin off my face!

The Michelin Pilot Super Sport goes on sale this spring.