Pirelli’s Secret Tire Test Facility – /SHAKEDOWN

Pirelli’s Secret Tire Test Facility – /SHAKEDOWN


LEO PARENTE: We’re just
outside Milan, Italy at a test track. But this Shakedown is
not about racing. Well, not directly. This is Pirelli’s test facility
at Vizzola Ticino, where they do all the work
for their tires. All the production models, some
race and rally tires, all the wet traction and noise
performance testing. What we discover is the process
to develop road tires is really the same as what
racing does when the sport is put to work. Let’s start with the man that
leads the Pirelli tire development team, and then watch
this place in action. STEPHEN ROWE: We are
located in Vizzola. Its perimeter is a
national park. We’re 50 kilometers
from Milan, where we have an R&D base. So we’re basically– from our office desk, from our
indoor laboratories, we’re 25 minutes in the car, to sitting
in the car and testing the tires we’ve just taken
off high speed or road resistance testing. Or cut the sections
to see what the specifications look like. We test everything here that
we can get our hands on in terms of wet. We test rally cars here. Anything with a lot
of movement in it. We are testing McLaren, we’re
testing Bentley, we’re testing the iconic Italian
manufacturers. But we’re also testing Fiat,
which is high tech small cars. We tend to think of it as
our open air laboratory. It’s an extremely valuable
commodity for wet handling. We can do all the instrumented
and subjective testing here. We have a number of special
surface tracks for the various conditions, whether it’s
cobblestones, open aggregate, closed aggregate, tarmac,
et cetera. LEO PARENTE: If you were asked
to design a tire test facility, what I’m about to
show you, you’d probably figure out yourself. Different surfaces. The most modern of tarmac– very smooth. A little older, larger
grain stones. Concrete– we see that all the time. The most oldest of tarmac–
bigger stones still. And then finally, cobbles– small cobbles, large cobbles. Pirelli calls this the European
area, but I call this the same surface you see
in Northeast cities– New York, Boston, Philly,
whatever. All to evaluate tire performance
and the sound a tire makes on these different
surfaces. But you’d have figured
that out yourself. STEPHEN ROWE: Here this is
still, after 30 years, a state of the art wet testing
circuit. An instrumented, braking, noise,
vehicle dynamics track. It was designed at the time
based on performance of the cars in those years. So we’re talking of the
late ’70s, early ’80s. It’s evolved because it’s become
even more wettable. Everywhere is wettable now,
whereas the original time, we didn’t have corner aquaplaning,
because it was never a characteristic that
was used at the time. We had straight ahead
aquaplaning, and mixed wet handling. Now we have the steering part. We have the straight ahead
and the slalom. Because we follow the trends
of vehicle manufacturers’ dedicated tests. So over the years, we’ve re-laid
the track, we’ve redesigned some of the corners,
we’ve re-laid certain specific asphalt types or
surface types to correspond with the ISO standards
for braking, for bypass noise, et cetera. For wet grip more recently with
the European labeling. So the structure of the track
has not evolved, because as I said previously, we’re
in a park. We cannot expand laterally
because we’re confined by the river on one side and national
park on the other. But the structure, the runoff
area, the safety, the irrigation systems have evolved,
following where we can improve our development
techniques and skills. We’re testing with every
major OEM here. They love coming here. And we’re testing noise,
comfort, wet grip, et cetera. So here we come with
our engineers. We have all the instrumented
testing either fixed into the road surface, and the telemetry
going in the tower. So the lap times, the
Gs, et cetera, are built into the track. But we come on a daily basis
with the drivers, the engineers, because we’re so
flexible, we could be using the same group of people,
prototype cars, prototype tires, and the dry end of the
track, working with an OEM in their specific track,
or bringing here. So extremely flexible from
that point of view. But all the telemetry and the
controls of the lap times, the Gs, the density of the water,
the thickness of the water on the aquaplaning, the performance
of the microphones on the [INAUDIBLE] bypass noise
testing, they’re fixed here as part of the structure. As you can see from the test
we’re doing today, wet aquaplaning, subjective
handling, and braking are fundamental characteristics
of any tire from a safety point of view. So early on, the shape of the
tire, the position of the grooves, in terms of the
efficiency and the wet, and the efficiency noise generation
on the various tracks we have of different
aggregates, is fundamental– the very first steps of
tire development. Computers now invade the
hands-on tradition approach from people like myself who’ve
got experience, our team. But the verification early on
that the [INAUDIBLE] profile, and the patent don’t create
irregular wear, don’t create noise, or don’t enhance the wet
facilities are something we have to get hands
on immediately. Telemetry, indoor simulation,
outdoor verification are all one pipeline of information into
the development channel. Fundamentally, when you drive
a car, when I drive a car, it’s subjective feedback. So our interaction with our
dedicated drivers for each project, or dedicated drivers
with each manufacturer’s line of vehicles is fundamental. So we have a standard reporting
sheet, very much like a Formula 1 driver will
get out to say understeer, oversteer, breakaway, not fluid,
progression, et cetera. We said earlier that this is an
outdoor testing laboratory, so in any corner we can invent
our own dedicated test, which highlights certain aspects
of the tire. And this is just one example
of a rudimentary test which gives us an extremely
interesting and documented piece of information. We’re looking now at a glass
plate photography– nothing new– where we’re measuring the
efficiency of the tread in terms of aquaplaning
resistance. So we have high-speed
cameras underneath. We drive the car over
the glass plate, clearly using water. We don’t get a good contrast
between the black tire and the water, so we just use milk. We use milk diluted in water. Very, very simple technique. We drive across the glass
plate, and take, at each separate speed, a high-speed
photograph to see the footprint, how it diminishes
in size as the aquaplaning forces raise the car and the
tire off the ground. And we can see the flow of the
water through the grooves which expel water through the
back of the trailing edge of the footprint, or laterally. Clearly, the big major grooves
evacuate the major part of the water through the trailing
edge of the footprint. And then the other bits of water
are evacuated laterally. And then the sipes, where
they’re present, have a squeegee effect and clean the
road, so if the front tire’s in a critical condition, at
least the rear tires are working on almost a
clean, dry road. LEO PARENTE: So in additional to
all this, Pirelli’s keeping the Provolone dairies in
business by getting the milk to do the testing? STEPHEN ROWE: No, no. We use milk that we
would throw away. Nobody’s using vitamins. And we dilute it, so
one quart will last us for quite a while. Part of the bio-friendly
approach to our tire technology. The OEM’s come for
two reasons. A, because the tires– and we
can have prototype tires which are futuristic, which may or not
already be [INAUDIBLE] for road use, cars maybe not
even seen on the road. So secrecy is a big
added value. And we can tailor any
of our tests. We can line up the drivers,
invent tests, we can have hand cutting, we can have any
treatment of the tires we want, to look at future
solutions for the vehicles. We have drivers assigned to
certain manufacturers for continuity of interface
with their drivers. So our assigned Lamborghini
driver would be the same person working on all the
various Lamborghini models, because he sits side by side
to interface with the Lamborghini driver. And it’s the same for many of
the vehicle manufacturers. P7 All Season is homologated– the principal European
manufacturers– Volvo, Audi, BMW,
Mercedes Benz. People are working on it until
homologation is obtained. It’s ongoing. Having a secret environment,
having workshops in this contained environment,
we can do basically anything they want. And it’s a way for them to get
out of their stereotype testing facilities, come here,
take a week, tug through things carefully. And we can see their road
maps into the future. We’ve got a window into future
car development, which is a jump start onto future
tire development. Which we see as very precious,
because our road maps of products are driven by OEMs. We’re in the premium segment. And if we can get any advantage
on saving time, or even understanding things the
day before our competitors, then this is one of the fundamental benefits of Vizzola. LEO PARENTE: It all comes back
to the relevance of racing to production car performance. And here’s where we learn
something over and over again when we talk with Pirelli. The process, the materials,
the whole approach to developing a great tire,
performance tire and passenger car tire, is directly
connected to racing. Everything they’re learning in
terms of compounding, in terms of construction, in terms of the
profiling of the tire, is coming from racing. Everything they do in terms of
the process to get a tire developed, tested, and
out on the street performing is the same. Simulations. The same type of testing and
debrief, data collecting, analyzing their data and moving
ahead, the laboratory work, all of it really
is racing. So when anyone ever thinks about
that disconnect of the show of racing versus the real
world, all you need to do is look at tires– Pirelli tires for sure. STEPHEN ROWE: In the middle
’80s, we had a lot of rallying, world rally
championship activity with Ford, with Toyota,
with Lancia. A lot of the Scandinavian
drivers, the start of the Latin drivers, the Carlos Sainz,
the DD [INAUDIBLE], the Mickey [INAUDIBLE]. So we were getting a lot
of the [INAUDIBLE] and the Kankanens sideways
across our bridge. They get fed up of testing. They like to enjoy themselves,
so they come down this straight here, flat out, a bit
sideways onto the bridge. And then trying to keep the car
sideways until they get over the crest and then just
straighten it up to come off the edge of the bridge. So four wheel drive, and the
limited mental approach of what the consequences are if
they go off the track.

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  1. Very good and informative episode, thank you. It seems that Pirelli is looking at every angle when it's about testing and putting a great product on the market.
    They probably looking at the competition as well -> 06:47

  2. I wonder if they cover the road in a fine layer of oils and dirt. Everyone knows the lowest grip you can get on a public road comes when it rains after a dry spell.

  3. Still they can't beat Michelin. What about a review about the best of the best on tyres tecnology, Leo? You should get more close to the frenchs…

  4. I gotta say that JF and the DRIVE team have hit perfectly on everything automotive. Brilliantly written, edited, soundtracks…this series just puts you where you want to be every time. I see the in-studio production value evolving, these guys are clearly listening and looking to make this (dare I say it) the premier auto enthusiasts' series on the planet. Top Gear will always be the Daddy for this kind of content, and it couldn't have been pulled off anywhere but the BBC, until now.

  5. I was an audio engineer for studio and live events in an earlier career, I know it can be done with out much additional equipment. Drives me crazy, (former) occupational hazard.

  6. Maybe a Golf R, whatever it is, it is really glued to the road in the wet.
    I had a Nissan Sedan on P6000, that thing stuck like glue.

  7. It's just a commercial for Pirreli tires.
    Pirelli's summer performance series are garbage compared to Michllin's Pilot Sport series.

  8. again on topic from Leo's comment at the end, I don't think they even race in regularly tropical conditions either. Open Class @ the Sepang 12hours is basically just Michelin.

  9. but on real roads there are oils and other things that make the roads even more slippery than just water. I wonder if they test for that.

  10. Cool video! I've never used Pirelli.. Michelin, bridgestone , Yokohama advans.. Toyo t1-r and r888, Dunlop star specs…. Never a Pirelli… Dunno why

  11. Pirelli's are still way too expensive. All of their competitors can match or surpass Pirelli's performance for much less money. I love the Pirelli's that came stock on my Mustang GT track pak, but I'm not going to be buying them as replacements at $350/tire!

  12. from my experience and test results i have seen, pirelli's high performance tyres are still owning the competition in terms of pure grip and lap times. yet their everyday tires like p6 p7 are not that good as you said. i guess they are more focused on high performance tires, where they really do an excelent job.

  13. Loved the PZero Nero's that came with my MKVI GTI. Handled real well in the rain, gave me more confidence in wet conditions than any other tire I've had. Very quiet and comfortable as well. But like others have said, the longevity of the tires were too short for my liking. Pretty much done for after 19k miles. So now I'm giving Bridgestone Potenza RE970 Pole Position's a shot. If had the money to blow to buy tires every 20k miles I'd love to stay with the OEM tires. Hopefully they fix t

  14. I typically prefer Michelin for car tires. They just seem to consistently be the best all around. But Bridgestone and Pirelli are almost as good. And when it comes to motorcycle tires, Bridgestone and Pirelli may have an edge over Michelin currently. Regardless, those are the 3 best tire companies in the world and Dunlop/Goodyear is not far behind.

  15. The Pirelli P Zero was a good tire for a while. But the competition from Michelin and Bridgestone has now outdone it. The thing I don't understand about the Bridgestone car tires is why they have to be so heavy. They are consistently 3 or more lbs heavier per tire! And the weight of the tire is the most noticeable/sensitive component due to it being unsprung and rotational mass on the outermost portion of the drivetrain/suspension. Not to mention, they don't last as long as comparable Michelins.

  16. have em on a chevy is all i gotta say, its a simplified cavalier… pirellis cost a fortune… u mise well make your own tire.

  17. I have P Zero Nero M+S on my A6 currently LOVE THEM. Glad to see another AUDI in this test facility video.
    I'm 120% sure the car handled exactly how they wanted it to for test track & the driver's input otherwise Pirelli would NOT have shown any of the cars they used for this video segment.
    I love my Pirelli's but I'm a long time Yokohama fan (owned several sets over the years) I am in the market for a new set of Tires deciding whether to go back to Pirelli, buy another set of Yokohama OR branch out to Continental DWS this time around!?

  18. Go for Pirelli. Michelin Tires developes small cracks on all the sidewalls as early as the late months of only the second year. By the early 2nd months of the 4th years all tires looks like rolling time bombs on wheels. The 5 years Michelin Tires warranty were absolutely worthless for material defects. Experience from a true real world Michelin Premier MXV4 owner.

  19. It was raining hard the other day! I was the turnpike hdg south overtaking someone and the back of car kick out on me @ about a 40° angle at 95mph. I caught it just time. I hit the breaks for two seconds then again for another second then got on accelerator. Pirelli was apart of a huge part of me recovering control of the car. Thank You Pirelli
    Automobile: Mercedes-Benz GLK350 non 4-matic (FR)

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