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03/11/2011
PERFORMANCE ABOVE ALL

TUNING TYRES

These tyres are designed to give maximum results and are preferred by the preparers and enthusiasts of hard tuning

Pietro Paolo Marziali

For some years now, a pleasant aspiration has been spreading among the owners of performance vehicles in Italy as well as in other countries: to increase performance even more by tuning. Tuning can be divided into two areas: "soft" and "hard". The former includes spoilers, skirts, contours and everything to do with the "racing" embellishment of a vehicle. The latter involves the mechanics to an extent that can be more or less extreme: the engine, transmission, brake systems, etc. Whether it's soft or hard, tuning includes a subject that is very close to us: tyres. In the first case, because they must look aggressive, muscular, "macho", the signs of considerable performance. In the second case, performance is an extremely real requirement. The desire to test, and be tested by, modified vehicles is, fortunately, expressed to the maximum on track-days. In other words, the days on which various circuits are reserved for the entertainment of aspiring racing drivers; and since the majority do not have a trailer for transporting the vehicle to the track, it has to get there on its own four wheels. Which means that the tyres used for these exhibitions must be homologated for road use. Tyre manufacturers have been urged by potential customers with modified vehicles (soft or hard doesn't matter) to produce something special that distinguishes them from normal tyres and, of course, their performance. The passion for track-days is particularly widespread in the Far East.


So let's begin our overview
The latest semi-racing from Kumho is the Ecsta KU36 with a carcass design that is completely new and takes advantage of the manufacturer's experience in various championships at home and in Australia for which it supplies its real racing tyres. The compound is designed to get rapidly up to temperature so performance begins from the first minute. The design is slightly reminiscent of UHP tyres with two big central grooves divided by ribs and tread patterns that are thicker on the inside of the shoulder and thinner on the outside. The range starts from sizes for 15" to 19" rims.
Hankook's top product is the Ventus R-s2. The type of tread reminds you that it is related to UHP tyres with the appropriate modifications. Driving precision and constant performance are its strong points. Hankook also offers other products in the UHP family, but with characteristics (and durability) that are more road-oriented: the Ventus V12 Evo and the Ventus Prime2.
Yokohama proposes two semi-racing tyres: Advan AO48 and Advan AD08, but the former is the spearhead for all-performance products. Advan AO48 is available with two compounds, the first for very rough roads and the second for very high external temperatures. They have a limited number of grooves but they are marked and feature a single pattern for a constant and regular contact patch. There is also a special version of the AO48, which was created for the Lotus Elise Track Car with 16" and 17" rims. The range of sizes for the other versions of this product goes from 12" to 18" rims.
The most recent semi-racing from Toyo is the Proxes R-888 for 13" to 20" rims, with 76 sizes and three different compounds depending on the size. If you add to this a very attractive pattern, it is easy to understand why it is liked by both soft- and hard-tuning enthusiasts. A batch of Proxes R888 was used as original equipment on a special series of the Renault Megane, the R26R, which is also designed and built with a semi-racing approach.
The recent Pilot Super Sport from Michelin benefits from the Clermont-Ferrand company's latest experience of endurance competitions. The appearance of the tread clearly shows that it is related to pure racing tyres. They also have in common the special construction of the inside: the circumferential belt in Twaron but with variable tension that tightness the centre more than the shoulders; this means that it won't deform at high speeds and becomes longer under centrifugal force. When cornering, the contact patch changes but not the amount of rubber. Another important characteristic is the bi-compound construction. The special elastomer on the outside increases grip on tight corners, while the one of the inside gives good grip on wet surfaces. Initially for 19" wheels, the Super Sport range quickly grew to include wheels of up to 22".
Continental has increasingly evocative names for its super-high-performance products and now it's the turn of the ContiForceContact. German technicians have abandoned the classic tread pattern with ribs and blocks, even though they've been improved gradually, for a totally asymmetric and "creative" tread in which the main function of the grooves is to give grip with two drainage channels on the inside to take care of any wet surfaces. Performance also from the Black Chilli compound that the ContiForceContact has inherited from the ContiSportContact 5P, which continues to offer its performance to anyone who needs different sizes; in fact the new tyre is available in five sizes, obviously all "street legal" and homologated for speeds of up to 300 km/h.
Marangoni M-Power with its asymmetric tread and optimized connection between the blocks is a progressive tyre capable of transmitting to the driver all the vehicle's responses. The development of the new product was finalized with the collaboration of some of the most renowned European tunes who went round the tracks for long periods in the vehicles they had prepared. Now M-Power is being produced in 14 sizes for 19" and 20" rims and top speeds of 300 km/h (code Y). By the way, every tyre is delivered in an elastic sheath to protect the tread.
We end this panorama of special products with the Pirelli P Zero, or we should say the P Zero Corsa, because the Italian manufacturer has dared to differentiate between the tread (and construction) for the front axle and the relevant characteristics of the rear axle. Conceived as a function of the specific application, the two products work in synergy, especially on wet surfaces, the Achilles' heel of the semi-racing. Thanks to the lateral expulsion of water, the directional tyre prepares the road for the asymmetric tyre to improve grip. At the moment, the P Zero Corsas are available only for 19" rims.

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