Performance on the track: huge variations
Over and above the difference in figures, the tyre’s performance on the track allowed us to highlight unexpected differences in terms of steering responsiveness. Measured and observed results were sometimes enlightening.
On the same topic
Now, getting down to the nitty gritty, these tyres are primarily designed to deliver the best possible performance for sporty driving. By driving round the Magny-Cours circuit, tyre comparison tests were expected to provide a clear ranking among the various models. And again, results were astonishing: Not only are performance differences felt, but the impact on lap times is tremendous with more than two seconds a lap between the fastest and slowest tyre. And there, the brand names which come out on top are not the best known. Yokohama, the lap time champion is more than two seconds faster than Pirelli, the slowest tyre in the line up. Continental is second last, just behind Nexen.
Beyond the lap time result, it is mainly the difference in handling and steering response that surprised test drivers most. Depending on the tyre fitted to the Focus ST, there is a radical difference in how the car handles. Equipped with Yokohama tyres, the Focus St is a scalpel, cutting through corners with disconcerting ease. Conversely, the car is difficult to drive with Korean Nexen tyres. Even if lap times are not the slowest, these tyres complicate the driver’s task: No precision when negotiating sharp corners, sudden loss of grip… it even interferes with the effectiveness of the ABS when braking heavily. It is impossible to drive properly with these tyres, even if drivers who love skidding will probably appreciate them. Much safer, the Continental tyres gives less driving pleasure with the car tending to understeer despite delivering a correct amount of grip. The Vredestien, which puts in a very fast lap time, is pleasant to drive but there is one criticism, it suddenly loses grip when it reaches the limit. Michelin tyres are uniform, sporty, decisive and precise. The same is true for Goodyear, whose tyresare not against a bit of aggressive driving and where handling remains progressive.
The Bridgestone tyre responds well to driver’s orders and offers remarkable handling when entering bends, but it saturates too quickly and the Focus ST promptly understeers. The Toyo tyre feels quite progressive but suffers from a serious lack of character. Pirelli sign the worst lap time with a tyre which leaves drivers disappointed when driving our Focus ST: Handling is sometimes erratic, it often loses grip and even in fast bends, cupping can be felt. Finally, Yokohama dominates discussions whether in terms of lap time or the more subjective driver’s feeling.
>> In the context of our subjective tests, based on three criteria (precision, balance and grip), each of our three drivers will give a more detailed explanation of one of the three criteria.
In this video, Julien Taillandier, a journalist specialized in tyres, is talking about the steering precision.
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