Blog : Treading safely with an Adrenalin rush

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

The new Bridgestone tyre with its unique tread pattern.

 

If there is one thing in the automotive trade that struggles to capture any emotion or excitement at the time of purchase, it surely must be tyres. They tend to be viewed as an item that, along with engine oil, is purely an evil necessity bought purely on a cost factor unless high performance is key.

Tyre safety is too many times overlooked, which I find staggering considering your average passenger car is planted to the ground by nothing more than a surface area equivalent to  four small envelopes. But tyre technology has leapt forward in huge advances over recent years which is why we grabbed the chance to test an all new product. The plane tickets arrived and I was off to Gatwick – I really do hate flying so I hoped the weekend would be fun and educational.

Bridgestone is the world’s largest maker of vehicle tyres (if you exclude Lego that is) and I was invited to put the new ‘Adrenalin’ tyre through its paces on track. What makes this new product special and, of course relevant to our love of MG and Rover, is the fact it has been purely designed as a non-OE tyre developed specifically for aftermarket purposes as a performance upgrade in sizes up to 18-inch. They claim the tyre has the best dry/wet weather performance possible – on a very wet weekend in Spain, just how did they stack up?

At first light we were all up and ready for the coaches to take the party of over 70 journalists and bloggers from all over Europe to Ascari. Arriving at the stunning private track, we were split into groups and listened intently as Bridgestone development staff, along with ex-Tyrrell F1 and Touring Car driver Stefano Modena, went through the planned schedule.

F1 and Touring car driver Stefano Modena explains the days driving events at the briefing.
F1 and Touring car driver Stefano Modena explains the days driving events at the briefing.

For those who don’t know, the Ascari resort is nothing more than stunning. The grounds and views of the local mountains takes your breath away and make Silverstone look like a regional Stock car track. However, if you happen to be a billionaire Dutch businessman and you are nifty with a cement mixer and a tar burner, you too can have one of the most impressive racing circuits money can buy. Banked corners, long straights and some eye watering hairpins all feature on this private raceway along with slaloms and skid pans – it really is quite something to see and experience – in fact, I strongly recommend a visit.

After some initial instruction (in German) from driving instructor Marcus Gedlich, our first sample of the Potenza Adrenalin RE002 would be to drive an Audi TT quattro along a straight section weaving through some tightly positioned cones. The road of course was soaking due to the rain, but the first thing I noticed after a couple of practice runs was the sheer grip on offer. I have driven many new cars in the dry seeming to offer less grip under evasive conditions so, as a consequence, I was impressed. The rain eased off for a while making the next experience a better example of the new tyres driving traits in finer weather.

Ready for the off! - The wet slalom test with the Quattro TT.
Start up the Quattro! – The wet slalom test.

Audi A3 2.0 models were supplied for this exercise simulating a family car environment, two were fitted with the RE002 Adrenalin and a similar number fitted with Bridgestone Turanzas. A seriously high-speed drive took place around the straight, banked and hairpin section of the circuit and, again, there was a marked improvement. I drove the car with the older tyre design first followed by the Adrenalin and the difference, though small, was a marked one. Steering reactions seemed quicker, more confident and almost leech-like in grip during hard fast banked cornering – it’s a fun tyre, but a safe one too.

The last challenge undertaken by our group of over 70 bloggers and website owners was a skid pan and slalom test in a fleet of current Volkswagen Golfs, again testing the two types of Bridgestone tyre under arduous conditions. Slaloms and chicanes were laid out on this part of the circuit which tested the tyres abilities under aquaplaning and evasive lane changing scenario in extreme wet weather. Again, the two types performed well and I drove the wheels off these cars, but again by a small but noticeable margin  the RE002 had more grip and response through the wheel – but a margin large enough to differentiate between life or death.

The skid pan showed the tyre to have superb water dissipation and stability.
The skid pan showed the tyre to have superb water dissipation and stability.

A serious  situation on the road requires not only a level of skill but a huge amount of built in safety from the car also. Some testers expected to see a night and day difference between the new and existing tyre design which is, of course, impossible to achieve on a standard road car. The key thing is the compromise between grip and all-weather safety – a lengthy topic of debate between myself, Stefano and Bridgestone Business Analyst, Peer Ischreyt. Traditionally a performance-orientated tyre would be of soft compound with ultra re-enforced sidewalls offering a good grip but sacrificing ride traits.

The new tyre feels harder in compound, but some clever design touches to the tread pattern, including a plough-like accelerator feature that spreads the water aside and away from the tread faster than before, makes an effective all-weather tyre. A harder compound also means cooler running and longer life expectancy than your usual high performance tyre too so it certainly looks and feels like an impressive balance of longevity, grip, performance and ride. Cars like the MG TF, ZS 180 and the larger capacity ZT – models already known for their prowess under duress – will surely benefit from these impressive tyres.

Designed as an aftermarket tyre - The RE002 is designed for cars like our own MG ZT for example.
Designed as an aftermarket tyre – The RE002 is designed for cars like our own MG ZT for example.

My thanks go to Andy Dingley and the team at Bridgestone Europe for a great and eye opening weekend that had everyone revved-up about a feature so many of us simply fit and forget – car tyres!

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

32 Comments

  1. Mike, the emotion and excitement usually comes very shortly before the purchase, when you realize that your tenuous grip on Planet Earth is about to be interrupted. Back in 1984, I bought a Vauxhall Ventora – quite a Q-car in those days – which had four Firestone Cavallinos fitted. You may remember that Firestone had a lot of trouble with these tyres, they were in such a hurry to leave the UK that as their factory and offices in West London were demolished, office paperwork was seen to escape the building and fly around in the air! No surprise to me when all four Cavallinos went POP one after the other, the most spectacular being announced by a heavy vibration in the rear C-pillar area at a mere 30mph. I stopped and changed the wheel. Next morning I looked at the tyre in daylight, to find that the casing had distorted so much that an area of tread the size of the back of my hand had been worn bald as the casing had distorted. So I am very careful what tyres I buy, and how I treat them!

  2. It amazes me how in this country we have such an appetite for such cheap and shoddy tyres on our cars. I was once called a tyre connoseur by a dealer when I specified some Continental tyres for my Ford Focus.

    Personally I would only buy decent premium tyres, they perform better and last longer. I currently run Pirelli P7 Cincuratos and Goodyear Ultra Grip 8’s in winter, both tyres way better than the standard fir Bridegstone Run Flats that came with the BMW. Surely a candidate for worst tyre ever?

  3. I’ll admit to noticing that I need 3 tyres, with the 4th borderline. Especially with the snow, ice and the damp should it all ever thaw.

    However for the cost of 4 new tyres, I was keeping my eyes open for a set of alloys with inclusive decent tread tyres.

    Quite often I would go to the tyre fitters, he would see me turn up in my bangernomics special and assume I wanted to cheapest shoddy piece of rubber he could find in the back warehouse. Not always the case.

  4. There is a tyre dealer in Nuneaton who refused to quote me a price when I wanted to replace 175/70’s on my 218SLDT with 185/65’s (all 4 wheels). I have never darkened his doorstep since.

  5. It’s not only cheap tyres that are prone to problems! I had a puncture a couple of years ago and when I went to get it repaired it was not worth the cost having only a couple of mm of tread. Going through the options of what was available, I opted for some Pirelli P6000s which fitted the bill at reasonable cost (i.e. a well known make and common tyre). The Goodyears that I had on the front weren’t available at the time and were on back order. The car was a Honda FRV diesel and the Pirellis went on the rear with Goodyear NCT5s on the front.

    All was fine for a few months and 8,000 miles until I experienced a suddent rear end breakaway going round a small roundabout at low-ish speed. I thought nothing much of it, assuming that someone had spilled some diesel on the road. Shortly after I noticed a rumble from the rear of the car. Thinking it might be a rear wheel bearing I did all the usual checks but there was nothing wrong with either wheel bearing nor anything else on the suspension. I did also start to notice that the car was a bit tail happy but as it was MOT time soon I hung on.

    At MOT time the tester remarked that the Pirellis were wearing unevenly. Rubbing a hand round the tyre revealed that the tread blocks were obviously unevenly worn – causing both the rumble and the poor grip. Further research found that these tyres are well known for uneven tyre wear.

    Needless to say the tyres were replaced same day by a set of Goodyears which then lasted until the car was sold.

    Any car owner will probably want to balance wet/dry grip, braking, noise, fuel economy and durability against cost. Add to that, not all tyres suit all cars and a tyre that is good on one make will not necessarily be happy on another and buying tyres is something of a lottery.

    PS: I did once comprehensively spin a Dolomite (at 30 mph!) that had newish Michelin XZX on the front (fitted by me) and cheap unbranded tyres on the rear (fitted by the previus owner). Both had plenty of tread but the Michelins gripped a lot better than the cheapos!

  6. Had Pirelli P6000’s fitted on my Mitsubishi Carisma (yes not the most exciting car in the universe but so reliable) at 94000 miles. Now on 137000 miles and still have them on the rear wheels. And yes still legal but did get an advisory on them last MOT.

  7. I tend to look after my tyres and check them regularly. My current set are Continentals as fitted new. Previously i have used budget tyres without problems but tend not to punish them anyway.

    Despite current prices, top brand tyres are worthwhile for safety and long life. They remain good value especially given the punishment they endure.

  8. @ #5;

    The best pair of tires in terms of grip should ALWAYS be on the rear axle. This applies to FWD or RWD vehicles.

    Yes, yes, of course if you are an “expert” driver having the tail-end loose is more fun but being upside-down in a ditch is not so cool I have found.

  9. It’s amazing how easy it is to ‘light up’ cheap boots even in dry conditions. I’m currently having to run cheap tyres through no choice to be honest (lack of the folding stuff), but deffo notice the poor performance in the wet

  10. #8 Simon Alberta: back in my Ventora days, I briefly used fabric braced radials on my back wheels as I was short of money as my Cavallinos went pop. I had steel braced radials on the front. I vividly remember a very long sideways “moment” coming out of Bedford. Will I hit that oncoming Allegro? (repeat twice) Phew – no!

    Every so often, it’s worth trying a different make – my first Manta had Contis all round – I didn’t realize they had very poor on-centre feel until I drove another Manta which had Pirellis on the front – much better steering.

  11. And part worn tyre sales are now at record levels, with suppliers popping up everywhere now. £125 a corner new, or £25 for the same tyre with 6mm of tread. For people who do low mileages it makes sense.

  12. My 1996 Seat still had its original Michelins on the back when I sold it in 2005. However, as I don’t run expensive performance cars, I usually buy replacement budget tyres like Rotallas, which are usually good for 3 years as I only do 8000 miles a year. These might not be the kind of tyres you’d fit to an Audi, but do for cars like my Fiesta.

  13. Kev @ 11
    – Don’t think I’d ever consider a part worn tyre – There’s too much an element of “you don’t know where it’s been”!

    I often wonder how, why the optimal tyre design was not established long back. Especially the best tread pattern for ‘expelling’ water. Whose going to educate me?

  14. I think people who spend a fortune on tyres are mad. I was talking to someone who was having to pay in the region of £600. Absolute madness.

    I use cheap tyres, even secondhand tyres, and they give me no problems. Bangernomics, but in my defence I maintain my own car, and know exactly what condition my brakes and suspension is in. Which is more than can be said for the type of drive who buy premium tyres, but couldn’t change their own oil.

  15. Nice blag, Mike, getting the tyre reportage jolly in Spain!

    I’ve yet to have a car with budget Chinese tyres fitted that did the job adequately. I’m sure there must be a good Chinese tyre out there- not found it yet, and if looking for an excellent performance/price compromise, so far the best cheap tyre I’ve found have been BF Goodrich. Too good, in fact, since when a BMW driver pulled out in front of me on a cross-hatched road (no stopping) in the pouring rain, I was able to stop, but the Omega driver behind ran into the back of me, writing off my Mazda 323F. Wish I’d hit that bloody BMW instead.

    Back when I had a decent-ish paying job I ran my Focus 2.0 Ghia on Pirelli P7s that always had to be ordered in especially as not a stock item then. A superb tyre at the time, especially when coupled with a first-rate Focus Mk1 chassis- with an excellent repertoire of tricks thanks to superb chassis engineering.

    I have run part-worn tyres more recently due to lack of readies, but had one failure due to an incorrectly fitted valve. Tyres themselves, at £12 per pop including fitting, were ok, in fact they still had their moulding nipples on the outside, that wear down with use. But definately a poverty purchase- yes, I accept the arguments re- risks, but then if it is the choice of getting potentially dodgy tyres to get me to work, and not earning a wage, then one has to gulp and do what ya have to do under the circumstances.

  16. I’ve driven for over 18 years and owned more that 75 cars in my time, and I can honestly say I’ve never noticed any difference whatsoever in how any of the tyres fitted to any of the cars performed whatsoever. Infact the more expensive and German the tyre the poorer quality they are as far as durability goes, the Michellins on my sister’s 11k mile 2 year old Clio sport were so cracked and deteriorated she had to change them for cheapies. The cheap, unbranded ones lasted a further 20k miles and I certainly didn’t noticed any difference in grip. It’s all in the mind this obsession with expensive tyres…

  17. Hmm.. I had some Matador tyres from the Ukraine on my MG1600. Michelin rip-offs.. handled like it was on rails. in 1998 that was £25 each compared to £90 for the Michelin. lasted 18 months but then, if you boot around in a nippy FWD car, what do you expect.

  18. For me, Michelin tyres are without equal,always,always been a sound tyre on any car i have had,after that Hankooks really impress me.
    Avoid Chang Shen,Iron man,LingLong and Road Romance (WTF?)they are complete horror shows and they sound like your wheel bearings are goosed.

  19. Problem with many performance tires is from ‘pothole’/road damage due to their low profile. I have busted 3 tires (and one wheel) due to pothole damage so I am sensitive to tire prices for replacements (have to do so in pairs).
    I know here in the USA, one can shop around and find good deals on proper ‘performance’ tires (tyres) for your car. From mail-order companies that have local partners for delivery to and to be fitted, to Costco (although may have limited brand ranges)and local tire (tyre) shops that may price match or you can haggle with.
    I will agree that Michelins are the best overall for quality, but are too often pricy. I sure won’t buy no-name tires or any made in China. Even name brand tires can be made in China-you have to look out. My Mazda 6 came with Michelin’s originally, my current tires on are a pair of BG Goodrich’s made in the USA, and a pair of General (Continental owned) made in France. By shopping around I got each pair installed for about = 200 pounds.

  20. I’ve put cheap tyres on my Alfa V6 (only ‘cos I was selling that one) and they wore out before the car was sold. I’ve put expensive tyres on V6 Alfas and they did last a lot longer.
    Years ago I had a company Bedford HA van and nearly got fired for getting 4 Goodyear G800’s fitted. However, when I let the boss drive it and he found it would take a roundabout at 40 with utter confidence he melted a little. Fitted with Firestone cross ply commercial tyres it would have slid off into oblivion at half that speed.
    I just put on whatever I can afford – is that what most people do?

  21. Some cars are notorious for wearing out their tyres. The Mazda 3 TD, while an excellent car in other respects, will get through the front pair in 10,000 miles as the tyres don’t seem able to cope with the power going through the front wheels.

  22. Trusting a good brand is the key,there is no way on this earth i will use part worns,after a dear friend was killed in his Sierra,when a second hand tyre was fitted and blew out span his car and burned to death-so i wont do kamikazi,most of these part worns come from germany all piled into containers,they are a kiss of death and the practice should be banned.

  23. #23 your ideas are sound as to part-worn S/H tyres, but carried to an extreme, if you purchase a second hand car then it would be mandatory to replace all the tyres with new.

    Tyres, along with domestic items such as washing machines, refridgerators, televisions, vacuum cleaners are all examples which have almost stood still in price over the last 30 years. A washing machine was £250 in the early 1980s, they are still £250 today.

    One day at Kwikfit (probably 1993)I was in the shop floor mess room, on the wall a sales posters, not for public eyes.

    The poster listed profit margins for tyres.

    A dirt cheap tyre they made about £2, eg Stomil, for a premium (Michelin) they made about £4, the big money for Kwikfit was the medium price tyres, £10-15 profit. For many tyre purchases they made more from the valve and balance fee than the tyre itself.

    Clearly they wanted you to buy mid price tyres, Dunlop Firestone etc and, after subtracting the profit, they were buying in mid range tyres at wholesale prices for only slightly more than money than the budget Stomil tyres.

    Does anyone have some more uptodate information on tyre sales policies?

  24. I’ve never really understood the sniffyness people have over part-worn tyres. Do these same people immediately change all the wear-and-tear parts on any second-hand car they buy for new ones?

    Like anything else apply due dilligence. Visually inspect for any damage and anything you are not happy with – reject.

    Puncture repairs – treat with caution unless properly done.

    Any evidence of abrasion on the inside of the sidewall – reject. The tyre has been run flat for a distance.

    With regards to new tyres – there are some appalling budget tyres around but also some bargains.

  25. @25, A fair point,you get what you get with a second hand car,i have been to car washes/tyre bays and they are not bothered what they sell,plenty of tread rusty beads and the like and god knows when it got kerbed/overheated or whatever.
    For me,i would not ever put part worns on just because i do not know thier provenance(seen some with six puncture plugs in them)and my earlier post,anymore than i would whip to the breakers and install used brake pads-tyres,brakes and steering are really the only things keeping you safe when driving so thats why i impart the utmost importance to those components.
    Taxi drivers in particular seem to fit part worns and they should be ashamed of themselves.As always each to thier own,the method in my madness mitigates any grey areas and gives me peace of mind.
    Tyres are pricey,so i get mine from the wholesaler direct,Micheldever are untouchable on thier prices as the firm i work for spend £7 million a year on them,so im lucky.

  26. Enrico @ 26

    Good point, but somehow I’d still opt for a new tyre. Then again, I’m always looking to keep the car for a long time. I may think differently if I was only considering short term ownership.

  27. @David Dawson1

    Since no-one gave you a real answer, I think I could give it a go on your question:
    “I often wonder how, why the optimal tyre design was not established long back. Especially the best tread pattern for ‘expelling’ water. Whose going to educate me”.

    We first off; you can already see it in the difference of attitude in the remarks here.
    People; people are generic. Even those of the same sex and age.

    Secondly; cars are generic. For FWD, RWD, AWD, engine in the front, the middle, the rear.
    Thirdly; tires are generic.
    Yes, sometimes tires are branded towards eco, long-life, of sport, but again for generic cars, thus again generic tires as such, only a little-bit less.

    But even two identical cars are used differently; for home-to-work, as people carrier, city only, 90% motorway, one occupant, heavy hauler.
    And those identical cars are used again in different countries, with different ambient temperatures, different roads, etc, etc.
    And then again all above combined in a mix of all those aforementioned varieties.

    Exception to the rule, are tires made especially for one make, one type and one purpose. For example the tires purpose-build for the say, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS 4.0:
    A barely road-legal, one-directional, even corner-specific, ultra-low profile track-tire, for specifically that car and that car only.
    And for one purpose, the ultimate swan-song of the 997 series; a track-record on the Nürburgring.
    If you’d have to change one tire for whatever reason, you have to change them all. Front and back.

    Trying different brand tires on that car destroys the intended grip and balance, using those custom-made tires on any other 911, makes that particular car a disaster to drive.

    That 911 was not the only one having custom-made tires, though, there are more, but that’s not the point.

    The point was to give an answer to “why the optimal tyre design was not established”.
    I think I gave somewhat of an answer.

  28. Low profile tyres are a nightmare on the crap UK roads.

    Pothole, gets a bit soft, sidewall buckles and ruins the whole tyre.

    With the Alfa – http://wgmnet.co.uk/alfapic2.jpg – the tyres were getting replaced that often the tyre fitter started to know the car and the tyre dimensions off by heart.

  29. #30 Proving my point about the differences.

    Here in Denmark, roads are certainly no German quality either, but still I run 195/40-16. I simply avoid the putholes. Works for me, already for the 13th year I live here, after moving from the Netherlands.

    I simply dislike the OEM 155/65-14’s. But having said that; in the winter that same size is perfect -as a winter tyre- in the snow!

    But that’s me. Matter of opinion. The next person might and will differ. And that’s how it should be.

  30. Driving about 20,000 miles per year, I can go through tyres in 12 months if I am chucking the car about. I strongly disagree with any comment that all normal road tyres are fundamentally similar. On my old Honda FRV, the OEM Michelin Primacy lasted only 18,000 miles on the front whereas the Goodyear NCT5 that replaced them lasted 33,000. There was little if any difference in grip although the NCT5 were slightly noisier.

    Certain types of tyre don’t suit all cars. Fords seem happy with Pirellis but Hondas don’t. I’m not sure that Michelins offer value for money as I have generally found them short on wet grip and with poor wear characteristics, especially the Primacy and Primacy Pilots. In contrast, I have been very happy with Goodyear tyres of late. I would not generally go for a “budget” tyre personally simply because all the tests that I have seen show that they are significantly worse than the branded equivalent, especially in the wet.

    When I bought my current C class I had the option of several similar ones at the dealer, including several with the optional AMG body kit and 18″ wheels. The salesman was a bit surprised when I opted for the car with the standard 16″ wheels and 55 section tyres. I pointed out that I spend most of my time on the motorway and do a fair mileage. The differences being that the 18″ low profile tyres have a teeth jarring ride and last 2/3 of the distance of the 16″ tyres. Replacement costs for the 16″ tyres are about £75 each (Goodyear) and for the 18″ tyres about £190 each! Do the maths!

    The part worn argument is a good one and it is very much a case of buyer beware. If you are buying a part worn that has come straight off a virtually new car and still has the knobbles on it then you have a good chance that it will be ok. In fact, I know of one company that specialises in such tyres and also someone who buys tyres from them. However, I would personally always inspect the tyre very carefully before buying for any signs of cracking, damage etc. If you don’t know what you’re buying then buy new from a reputable supplier and stick to a known brand.

    Tyres are important but driving style and anticipation are even more so!

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