|Bridgestone New Product Introduction and Demonstration
Does Bridgestone Technology Perform Well On The Track and Road?
by Jim Bennett
To help answer this question, Bridgestone set up a tightly organized and managed track/evaluation event at Phoenix International Raceway. The background and my impressions follow.
Why evaluate tires at a racetrack? To start, it's a safe area to evaluate products under both normal and challenging conditions. There's ample space to setup the numerous logistical elements such as test vehicles, tire changing and maintenance functions, establish varied course/road conditions and have easier access to water trucks/equipment to provide wet driving conditions.
Also, the organizers can obtain experienced and professional driving personnel, who can effectively manage their on-track responsibilities. It allows less experienced attendees to safely explore the limits of tire performance coupled with their driving style. The professional drivers provide insight into questions relating to the driving experience and vehicle dynamics as related to tire performance based on their own competitive driving experience.
Bridgestone/Firestone's long term and successful involvement in motor sports coupled with consistent and high performing vehicles, such as BMW and Porsche, contribute to a higher level of evaluation. These technologically advanced tires need competent vehicles that allow exploration of the tire's performance characteristics that may approximate emergency handling conditions on public roads. The company also believes in a direct correlation between racing technology development and transfer of that experience to consumer tires.
Vehicles driven included six 2001 Porsche Boxster sports cars and twenty four 2001 BMW 325 sport sedans. These vehicles were selected because of their excellent performance, balance and consistent handling. Vehicle performance was exemplary and enjoyable to drive so we could concentrate on the differences of tire performance at the individual evaluation courses. Tire pressures were set to tire manufacturer specifications.
It's most to note that everything is concentrated on the four tire contact points when evaluating vehicle-handling behavior. In performing these evaluations, you must understand a vehicle's handling characteristics and maintaining maximum traction is absolutely essential to effectively perform any of the vehicle's prime functions such as acceleration, shifting, braking and cornering.
This is especially true when performing comparative evaluations of tires under greatly varying road conditions, where differences can range from subtle to dramatic. Tires provide the ultimate "tire contact patch" area between everything on the vehicle and its road performance characteristics. All this focuses on four contact patches each about the size of a hand.
A vehicle's weight, weight transfer, power, chassis, suspension and balance critically effect tire performance. On the other hand, tire design and composition, coupled with smooth and consistent driving significantly influences the maximum traction and highest performance that can be achieved by any tire under any road conditions. A combination of smooth consistent driving and attention to tire performance differences have been used in all the following tire evaluations.
Dated: February 12, 2001