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A Valencia debut for the double “A” tyre for the more consumption-conscious with mid- and mid-high-performance vehicles: these are our impressions of the wet and dry tests

Mino De Rigo

WHO KNOWS how many people will be curious about the tyre with the double “A” label and will want to try it out immediately on their own car. We did in Valencia, the setting chosen by Pirelli for the launch of the new Cinturato P7 Blue. We were able to try it on and off the Ricardo Tormo track, first in an Audi A4 TDI on a 1.3 km wet track inside the main circuit, and then in a BMW 320d and a Volvo V60 on over 200 km of hill road on the eve of the F1 European GP, which was taking place on the city circuit next to the port famous for the challenges of the Americas Cup. Three sizes boast maximum ratings (235/45 R17, 225/55 R16 and 215/55 R16) for rolling resistance and wet grip out of a total of 11, due to increase to 14 by the end of the year; all the other sizes are in the “BA” class.
We felt that the exercise was successful in its intent to combine marketing’s need to place the brand in the front line of the expected label challenge and achieve a technological milestone that, until yesterday, was universally considered to be impossible without jeopardizing overall performance because of two antithetical parameters. In short, the result was to bring forward the evolution that had already been mapped out for the Cinturato P7. And given the 6 million tyres sold annually (in addition to 20% as original equipment backed up by 52 homologations), it is destined to be on the market for a long time. Also because the new P7 Blue is exclusively for the aftermarket with a difference in price of 6%.

Annual savings of 52 litres
Based on the retail price, it costs about 70 euros more for a set of 225/55 R16s. But it does promise savings that tests by the independent body TÜV SÜD estimated to be around 90 euros a year compared to a similar  tyre in the “C” class, the market average in the reference segment. The Cinturato P7 Blue is accredited with 23% lower rolling resistance and could reduce fuel consumption by up to 5%: roughly 52 litres per 15,000 km annually (and -123.5 kg of CO2) at the correct pressures and with an appropriate driving style.
To make it even thriftier, the carcass was made lighter (by about 10%) and the sidewalls stiffer (7% more than its predecessor); again according to Pirelli, not only is contact patch pressure more even, the tread takes advantage of surface compounds and a stiffer substrate underneath that interacts to reduce the level of compromise between greater wet grip  and a smooth ride. The compounds are made with latest-generation polymers in a production process shared with Formula 1 tyres.
The tests gave the impression of a  tyre that, overall, does not appear to suffer from any complexes when compared to the Cinturato P7 launched in 2009.

Convincing wet braking and handling
Behaviour on the wet had no particular shortcomings and not just when braking, which was very good, but also more generally from a handling aspect. Resistance to aquaplaning was also good, even though the tread pattern grooves are not as wide and deep, but this is offset by an optimized profile and the stiffness of the blocks.
The comparative tests by TÜV SÜD” – emphasized Pirelli technical area manger Maurizio Boiocchi – “confirmed our tests, with braking distances on the wet reduced by 9% compared to the reference, a tyre in the same market segment with the ‘B’ class for wet braking: 2.6 metres less at 80 km/h for the 225/55 R16 size”. The only unknowns were tyre durability, which Pirelli says is the same as that guaranteed for the Cinturato P7, and any changes in performance with the gradual wear of the tyre. It cannot be said that the Cinturato P7 Blue has a sporty spirit, but it does owe a lot to the experience gained in motorsports, “with the acceleration of development that led to finalization in just a year. On the one hand, the entire evolutionary process involved car manufacturers and different teams of their specialists collaborating with ours, from factory technicians to engineers working on new materials, quality and design”.

Predictive simulation and F1 technology
On the other hand, the considerable use of advanced computer simulation systems (to avoid producing different models to be tested), with the definition of new solutions for the structure and compounds”. The virtual modelling tools developed for F1 (twelve chassis, the same number of cars at the lists) are available also for road tyres.
This was demonstrated in the technological island set up in Valencia for the occasion, a simulator for different car models, tyres (structures and compounds) and road surfaces, on which the tester can compare different behaviours to create a repetitive improvement process for developing HP and UHP tyres. For once, we specialized journalists, who had come from all over the world to cover the Pirelli launch, were allowed to be the testers of an experimental comparison (corroborated by longitudinal and lateral acceleration and deceleration data) between Lamborghini Countach and Gallardo equipped, respectively,  with PZero Asymmetric 225/50 and 345/35 ZR15 and PZero (today’s) 235/35 and 295/30 ZR19. Next to the simulator there was a roller test bench (already used for F1) for the thermographic analysis of the heat emitted by the tyres at different speeds and the energy efficiency of rolling resistance. A comparison between P7 Blue and PZero was won straightaway by the former as it was 10°C colder at 80 km/h and 30% smoother. Made in Italy and Romania at the Settimo Torinese and Slatina factories and destined for mid and high segment vehicles in a range from 205/60 R16 to 225/40 R18, sales of the new Cinturato P7 Blue are expected to be in the order of 300,000 tyres a year.

An anniversary coincides with the new Cinturato P7 Blue: the 25th year of Pirelli’s most high performance product line, the PZero, a competition-derived road tyre that made its debut in 1987 and was conceived for the Ferrari F40’s 478 CV, 577 Nm torque and top speed of 324 km/h. A tyre that already had a dual compound with Kevlar reinforcements in the bead. Nine years later came the PZero Rosso for equipping the Porsche 996, an all-round HP tyre with good wet performance and a new compound reinforced with micro fibres. The arrival of the Ferrari 360 marked the debut of the Pzero Corsa System and the adoption of a polarized compound to meet Pirelli’s aim of balancing high performance, comfort and mileage. 2007 was the year of vehicles of almost 600 CV, like the Gallardo LP, and to support the engine, lateral acceleration and extreme braking, a new technological leap had to be made. Simulation techniques and new reinforcing solutions were used to create an ultra-low profile PZero.
Of the PZero’s 621 homologations, now in the Silver, Corsa and Trofeo versions, 240 are still in production; since 1987, 53 million tyres have been sold and it is looking at tomorrow with a recipe made up of innovative materials and robotized processes seasoned with a pinch of Italian inventiveness.

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