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10/01/2020
Off road tires and 4x4fest

This is the annual appointment among 4x4 enthusiasts, being held in Carrara every October for the past twenty years attracting national and international off-road specialists, including wheels and tires

Duilio Damiani

We need to go back to the year 2000 when the off-road sector, feeling the effects of a growing SUV sector, decided to gathered under the Carrara Fiere banner. Since then, the national and international 4X4 sector has been meeting in Lunigiana, Tuscany, at the annual 4x4Fest in Carrara, an exhibition dedicated to SUVs, off-road vehicles and their mechanical components. In addition, of course, to everything related to outdoor living, from equipment to roof tents, from local rallies to some of the most gruelling national and international competitions which nowadays include other vehicles such as quads and ATVs. The 19th edition of the event proved an adventure-based experience which attracted over 30,000 visitors during the three days of the festival, with over 200 exhibitors scattered between exhibition halls and outdoor areas used for car tests and spectacular performances. A sector that, although still considered a niche market, accounts for a large number of enthusiasts, or even just curious, who are attracted to Carrara by the evolution of racing prototypes and driving tests featuring some of the most recent models, available for a first dynamic contact with the public. Off-road vehicles are increasingly less basic and are now commercially driven by the growing  success of the sport utility sector which, together with crossovers currently make up over 43% of the national car market. In fact, many were official exhibitors with their full ranges, from Mitsubishi - with the national preview of the new L200 pick-up - to Suzuki, Jeep, Toyota and Mahindra, all true protagonists of the 4x4 market, not to mention old-school off-road vehicles with a dominant attitude for the "hard and pure" off road.

 

Technology on display

No one can say that the 4x4Fest isn’t surprising and even excessive. Starting from a vast range of tuners showcasing some of the most diverse and even bizarre proposals to customize your 4x4, whether it is a racing vehicle or an everyday car. Up to the most imaginative manufacturers, able to reserve a last minute surprise in each edition.

Among them we find the Russian designed ATV Sherp, now exported all over the world since 2016, which, thanks to its aluminium body and four giant 1600x600 x 25" very low pressure tractor tires (1.6 metres in diameter), especially made for this vehicle, can move with apparent ease on any terrain, from quarry to snow, even moving through water in an amphibian-like manner thanks to its floating power.

A large part of the exhibition space has been reserved for oversized set ups and reinforced suspensions – not as extreme as in the past, perhaps, but still amazing - for all kinds of needs: from the simple desire to have more space on the ground, useful on mountain roads and trails, to the redesigned geometries for a weekend out in the woods or competitions, up to the most extreme modifications, with portal gear lifts and extreme rock-proof ground clearance.

In this perspective, the presence, more or less official, of a number of premium tire makers comes as no surprise, with their latest news meant for both day-to-day and off-road use.

 

Grip everywhere

As always the undisputed protagonist of the best off-road performance, the real link between the vehicle and the rough terrain below it. In other words, the tire with its tread pattern and wheel, has always been the focus for a vast number of off-road drivers who come to the 4x4Fest, willing to put on them their trust and expectations for better mobility on rough terrains. Mud, rock, sand, gravel, are typical conditions in which 4x4s move during off-road driving, imitated, to some extent, also by other Sport Utility Vehicles. From this point of view, specialized tires with aggressive tread blocks or marked POR (Professional Off Road), guarantee superior grip in difficult conditions, where normal road tires would easily get into troubles. POR tires, in fact, came under the spotlight, as manufacturers are increasingly attracted by a consolidated demand, albeit with limited volumes, as well as by the expectations of a very competent clientele whose preference is quite clearly addressed towards less extreme products, acting as a driving force for the whole sector.

Carrara saw the debut of the most aggressive of Yokohama's tread designs, a brand that has always been attentive to "borderline" needs ranging from sport to tuning up to more or less extreme 4x4 off-road driving, which unveiled to the Italian public its Geolandar X-M/T G005, an off-road tire dedicated to drivers who require maximum traction off-road. This is an extreme POR tire - hence the X in the name -, very aggressive and resistant, whose high full/void ratio continues on the sidewalls, favouring grip when leaning sideways, while the presence of sipes on the blocks favour grip even in the rain. Currently available in the main sizes from 17 to 20 inches, this is certainly a niche product, which completes the Geolandar family dedicated to 4x4 which includes the Mud Terrain M/T G003, the All-Terrain G015 and the X-CV G057 for crossovers and SUVs, with sizes ranging from 15 to 22".

Alongside new extreme 4X4 products, the average visitor couldn’t help noticing the space dedicated to rebuilt tires with precise replicas of treads from the main players in the sector proposed by a number of retreaders at about half the price.

At the Brenta Gomme stand, a very active company in the 4x4 sector, the entire range of retreaded tires, from 100% road to 100% off-road, was on display with a few models stealing the limelight such as the K2, the more extreme Dragon and Cross, for competitive use. Next to these, with the aim to satisfy an increasingly articulated demand, the stand showcased also a number of LingLong tires from China, of which Brenta is regional distributor.

On the other hand, Lerma Gomme surprised visitors with its Amazzonia, a design that defies the laws of physics, a truly extreme competition model size 325/85 R16, with tread blocks so large and grooves so deep that grip is guaranteed on rocks and mud. Multipurpose although clearly off-road, Lerma's Tiger line, a retread on Michelin casing is also available in a rather generous size, 9.00 R 16.

 

Not just tires

Next up, wheels, with the presence of two national manufacturers. Mak Wheels showcased its entire range, including Liberty, a model expressly dedicated to Jeep, available, as for most of Mak’s offer, also in sizes larger than the original, approved according to Nad standards in correspondence with the current wheel decree. This is a tempting opportunity to have a second larger set of tires, perhaps with 18" wheels replacing 16" or 17" models, approved as OEMs providing a dual configuration to your Jeep in compliance with Italian traffic laws.

Dedicated to spare parts and the racing sector, Evo Corse has displayed its offer for the off-road sector, with its Dakar range in 16” and 17” inch sizes.

In addition, to a wide offer from top accessory manufacturers, with numerous imported steel and alloy rims, also available with bead-lock systems, i.e. a mechanical device that secures the bead of a tire to the wheel, suitable both for spare parts and racing.

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