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Goodyear’s Eagle F1 Supersport tyre is so racy, it’s almost illegal
WANT to make your car dance like a Porsche? One easy way is to borrow its shoes. That's the main idea behind the new Eagle F1 Supersport tyre range from Goodyear, the world's third largest tyre company by revenue.
The American tyre giant will launch the Supersport family here in the third quarter of this year, giving it a new entry in what the tyre industry calls the "ultra high performance" (UHP) category. The new product is meant to tempt drivers from established tyres made by Bridgestone, Michelin and Pirelli.
Goodyear hasn't set prices for its Supersport range, but UHP tyres typically cost more than S$400 apiece here - more than four times as much as regular tyres.
But these are hardly regular tyres for regular cars. The company says its experience in motor racing has given it the know-how to make fitting a set of Eagle F1 Supersports one quick way to improve a high performance car's laptimes.
"We've made use of knowledge and experience gained from racing in NASCAR, the World Endurance Championship and touring cars," says Jenner Powell, Goodyear's Asia-Pacific product director. "The features you'll find in the Supersport series are really features you'll find in our race tyres, although modified for the street."
Tyres used in racing are sticky, which helps cars grip the tarmac well, but they would be useless on the road. They have to warm up to an optimal temperature, have only a few hundred kilometres of useful life, and lack the grooves to drain out water on the road, which would make them useless in the rain.
With UHP tyres, engineers try to create tyres that grip well, but do so without the compromises that would make racing rubber illegal on the road.
Goodyear says its internal tests showed the Supersport tyre produces faster laps than direct equivalents from Michelin's Pilot Sport range, a tyre family well known by driving enthusiasts, thanks in part to the fact that many fast cars come straight from the factory fitted with them. The Supersport range actually consists of three new products. The basic Eagle F1 Supersport is aimed at drivers who enjoy the occasional fast drive, and is ideally suited to everything from hot hatches like a Volkswagen Golf GTI to everyday super cars from the likes of Porsche, Aston Martin and other high performance brands.
Next up is the Supersport R, which is aimed at driving enthusiasts who split their driving 50/50 between road and racing track, or even for those who compete in amateur motorsports events.
The headline-grabber though, is the Supersport RS, an extreme performer that features a rubber compound directly related to Goodyear's racing products, and the bare minimum of grooves to be road legal. It's the closest thing to a racing tyre that you can legally fit to your car, in other words.
To back up its claims, Goodyear invited The Business Times to a private test track in Spain, where it fitted a Ferrari 488 GTB with Eagle F1 Supersports and a more track-focused Porsche 911 GT3 RS with Supersport R rubbers, and handed us the keys.
Nothing spells confidence in tyres more than letting over-eager motoring journalists loose on the track in expensive super cars, after all.
Driven at what would be a fast pace on the road, the Supersports offered up more than enough grip for the Ferrari's performance, with a gradual loss of grip at the limit that made the 670 horsepower supercar feel approachable.
The Supersport R's capabilities on the other hand, certainly exceeded ours. Driven smoothly, the GT3 RS gripped the track heroically, even at full power out of tight corners. The tyre's limits were far in excess of our bravery.
As for the range-topping Supersport RS, Goodyear rather sensibly declined to let journalists try it for themselves, but pointed out that Porsche has approved the new tyre for its 911 GT3 and 911 GT2 RS models - two of its very fastest cars. Goodyear may be used to winning on the track, but clinching approval from Porsche is one victory that bodes well for its new tyres.