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The art of testing tires in the rain

When Goodyear brought journalists to Seattle's Pacific Raceways to test the new Eagle F1 all-season tire, Mother Nature supplied plenty of rain.

Published June 1, 2012

The Art of Racing in the Rain is an award-winning novel about the highs and lows of life as a human, viewed through the eyes of a dog.

Not just any dog. Though. Enzo is the companion of car racer Denny Swift and he has learned much of what he knows by watching television. Like his master, a good portion of his tube time is spent studying racing.

Written by Garth Stein, the book is a heartbreaking tale that makes the reader laugh while crying as we read about the loss of Denny’s wife and the three-year custody battle for their daughter between Denny and his in-laws.

So why am I starting a story about a Goodyear tire launch with a book review? Well, as I mentioned, ’s main character is a car racer. Swift’s home track was in fact Pacific Raceways, just outside of Seattle. Stein himself was a racer, who learned to race at ProFormance Racing School, from school owner Don Kitch Jr. who formed the basis for a character in the book. Kitch’s dog GT is on the cover of the book and is an active participant at the track.

It seemed fitting then that when Goodyear brought a gaggle of journalists to Pacific Raceways for the introduction of their new Eagle F1 all-season tire, Mother Nature would supply a constant downpour to showcase the wet weather capabilities of the tire.

Once upon a time, the ultra high performance tire segment was just a sliver of the overall tire market, yet supremacy in the segment was the crown jewel of the serious tire manufacturers. Names like Goodyear Eagle F1, Michelin Pilot Sport and Bridgestone Potenza were the class of the field. As consumers have aspired to a sportier look and handling for their daily drivers, wheel sizes have expanded upwards to a point where 17, 18 and 19-inch rim diameters are now the norm on family haulers rather than just on high performance coupes. This trend has led to huge growth in the high performance tire wars as tire manufacturers scramble to grab their piece of the growing pie.

Redeveloping a “crown jewel” type of product is no small feat, so Goodyear brought together a team of 50 of their top engineers to work together on what they considered their most important project ever. The team included specialists not only in manufacturing, compounds and passenger car tires, but also the guys who develop tires for NASCAR to ensure the performance reached their goals.

Typically at a new tire launch, manufacturers will attempt to display a tire’s capabilities in wet and dry conditions, along with an on-road session, an autocross course and in the case of a performance tire, they’ll often send us to a race track to display their superior performance. At Pacific Raceways, Goodyear had each of those tests for us, except of course for the dry sections.

When mounted on a BMW 328is, the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All-Season tire bested the current Michelin Pilot Sport and the Bridgestone RE-970. This is no mean feat, as those two tires are by far considered the top performers in the segment. On the autocross course, the Michelin was admirable, but it was nearly impossible to get the Goodyear to lose traction, even when all of the electronic nannies were turned off. Out on the four-kilometre road course, the biggest difference between the Goodyear and the Bridgestone was the Eagle F1’s ability to remain stable when crossing deep, standing water at high speeds. In both cases, the Eagle F1 felt more confident under braking.

While it was a shame that I didn’t get to test the Eagle in dry conditions, heavy rains can be almost as daunting for many drivers as snow. Goodyear’s newest Eagle F1 offers confidence in the wet for those looking for replacements on their vehicle with low profile tires.

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