FROM PRODUCTS TO COMPETITIONS
It is one of the most dynamic emerging companies, thanks also to its considerable experience as a participant in the most demanding car races like the 24 Hours Nürburgring.
THERE ARE EVENTS that are destined to leave their mark on the halls of fame. In car racing, the enduros are, perhaps, the most complete expression of motorsports at their highest level. And among these, the famous 24 Hours Nürburgring is the international event, now at its 40th edition this year, that attracts the biggest number of competitors and cheering spectators who throng a route that drivers have ironically nicknamed the “Green Hell”.
Adrenaline, competition, the highest expression of motorsports, certainly, but also un unparalleled test bench for all the components that are stressed to spasm levels during the entire 24 hours of the annual appointment in Germany. Tyres, the only contact between the vehicle and the ground, are no exception and on the 25 kilometres of the legendary Nordschleife circuit they have to handle driving at maximum speeds on a track that, with few exceptions, replicates the majority of the roads we all take every day (at very much slower speeds, of course).
So it’s no coincidence that the event’s main sponsors include one of the tyre industry’s most recent players, the dynamic Falken Tire, the premium brand from Sumitomo of Japan, which is totally committed to both the sports and commercial sectors. Set up in the Eighties by a branch of Ohtsu Rubber Industry, which was already making aircraft tyres in 1944, in more recent times Falken Tire has specialized in a range for cars and, in particular, ultra-high-performance tyres for GTs and SUVs, in addition to a specific range for trucks and buses.
At the famous car race on the Nürburgring circuit that attracted enthusiasts from all over Europe and had 170 cars at the starting line for the long weekend from 18 to 20 May, Pneurama met the Japanese company’s top management, a delegation headed by the president of Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ikuji Ikeda, and by Isamu Ishida, the managing director of Falken Tire Europe which is based at Offenbach am Main in Germany. Accompanied by Falken distribution managers in Italy, the third largest market on the Continent after Germany and Great Britain, Daniela Bolla, project manager of Consortyres, Davide and Riccardo Di Maria of Astigiana Gomme, we took part in the exciting comparison of the favourites.
A global range
The event gave us the chance to find out more about the most recent Falken products that are also available on the Italian market. Firstly, the new high-performance tyre in the Azenis series, the FK453, designed specifically to meet the sophisticated demands of the European market. “The Azenis FK453 is a completely new design as well as the result of our experience in the motorsports world” explained Markus Bögner, Falken Tire Europe sales manager for Germany. “However, in addition to performance for sports, obviously our aim is the comfort of the driver and the passengers. Without a doubt, the FK453 is the quietest and most stable UHP tyre that Falken has ever made”. Developed on the incomparable test bench of the Nordschleife circuit at Nürburgring, compared with the previous FK452 series, the new model has 25% better handling on dry roads and 30% on the wet, thanks to a particularly stiff casing structure with a second nylon-reinforced layer for greater stability at high speeds. The rounded shoulder optimizes pressure on the tread and the high silica compound with Nur-Spec technology interacts well with the road surface. Three wide circumferential grooves give good water drainage on contact thanks to staggered sipes integrated into the first tread block at the shoulder. Available since the spring, Azenis FK453 is homologated for speeds of up to and over 300 km/h and comes in no fewer than 62 sizes in the 50 to 25 series, with widths from 205 to 295 mm for 17 to 20 inch rims. Also available in the same series is the FK453 CC version made specifically with a load index for high performance SUVs with four-wheel drive, speed rating W and Y and sizes from 235/65 R17 to 315/35 R20.
The most recently introduced lines in Falken’s extensive catalogue include fuel efficient models like the new Ziex ZE914, the company’s first product with a specific new compound that generates less heat and maximizes grip in the rain. Introduced this spring in sizes for the main mid-class saloons, in 2013 the range will be completed with 70 different sizes in diameters of 14 to 18 inches.
Recently introduced and dedicated to SUVs with a real need for off-road traction, the Wildpeak WP/AT01 series is an all-terrain tyre with an asymmetric tread that combines on and off road driving characteristics. With generous blocks that improve water, mud and snow drainage, central sipes for maximum grip on the most slippery surfaces, and reinforced shoulders to prevent side friction. The sixteen dimensions available have speed ratings from R to H and are designed for all the main makes of off-road vehicles in sizes 205/80 R16 to 285/60 R18.
As well as high-performance summer tyres and all-season tyres there are plenty of specific lines of winter tyres in new Eurowinter HS449 series with asymmetric tread design, a new silica compound for low temperatures, stability on the straight and when cornering at high speeds, and greater driving comfort thanks to reduced rolling noise. It was introduced this year in sizes 14 to 19 inches to meet the needs of premium high-performance vehicles, SUVs included.