[Ring photo by Frozenspeed.com]
In my last blog entry (Feb 2012 "Cool Additions") I mentioned that whilst getting my Forge transmission cooler fitted at Litchfield’s, I was shown their new automated tyre changing machine. The reason Iain has invested in one is that he is now a Michelin dealer, prompted by the long awaited release by Michelin of their OEM sized Pilot Super Sports tyres for the GT-R.
I was lucky enough to get one of the first sets in the UK and ended up having them fitted expertly at my local Kwik Fit.
The 255/40 front and 285/35 rear 20” OEM tyre sizes are actually a lot narrower than the tyres I have been mainly using over the last couple of years, namely the designed-for-GT-R 285/35 FRONT, 315/30 rear Toyo R888 R compound track day tyres. They have been great for everyday use as well as giving massive grip on track. Being non-runflats, they have a hugely improved ride compared to the runflat OEM Dunlops or Bridgestones. The softer sidewalls do rob the steering of that last percent or so of feel and responsiveness, but I’ve considered that a worthwhile trade off against the vastly improved grip and ride.
My only real gripes have been a sense that the massive 315/30 rear tyres might be a tad too grippy, removing quite a lot of the adjustability that OEM 285s allow and they are quite noisy, especially when new.
So, onto the Michelin Pilot Super Sports (MPSS). Again a non-runflat tyre, but with stiffer “extra load” sidewalls, my initial road impressions were that the MPSS fell neatly between the OEM Dunlops and the Toyo R888s with regards to steering feel and ride quality. One noticeable improvement is in road noise, which seemed to be virtually silent compared to the whining of the R888s or the drumming of the Dunlops.
Some initial “bounciness” was all but cured by dropping pressures from an initial try-it-and-see 34psi down to the OEM 29psi that Michelin later told me was the recommended pressure for the MPSS too.
Steering response and feel is a tad sharper than the R888s -if not quite as rock solid as the runflat Dunlops- and traction from the rear 285s is superb.
However I noticed that the 255/40 fronts let go a lot earlier than the 285/35 front Toyo R888s (unsurprisingly), but also didn’t seem to hold on as well as the Dunlops either.
The real test would be on track and the ultimate track is, of course, the Nurburgring, where the GT-R factory team continues to spend a massive amount of development time. I managed to book a place on Destination Nurburgring’s (http://www.destination-nurburgring.com/) recent mega 2 day event on the mighty VLN circuit that combines the Nordschleife and GP circuit, as used in the formidable 24 hour race.
Although I’d driven both tracks individually, I’d never driven the combined layout before so was really keen to try it out.
The Ring’s ever-increasing popularity is so high now, that I sadly no longer consider doing Touristenfahrten public days due to the inevitable stoppages due to accidents. Destination Nurburgring organised the event beautifully and even managed to arrange uncharacteristically warm and sunny conditions for late March.
The dual layout actually permitted the simultaneous running of both the combined VLN circuit or just the shortened version of the GP circuit if desired. This proved useful if, for example you wanted to do a 2 mile cool down lap of the GP circuit rather than the full 15 mile VLN lap.
The Forge transmission cooler and larger header tank I’d had installed at Litchfield’s proved invaluable as the transmission oil temp never exceeded 113c whereas back in October it hit 132c (well above the “change fluid” threshold) within a couple of laps pre-cooler install.
As for the MPSSs, traction from the rear 285s was outstanding, but the bite from the front 255s was simply not enough for the heavy GT-R. I found I was having to brake down to a noticeably slower entry speed for most of the corners in order to be confident that the car would hit the apex and on some of the harder braking areas, the ABS even kicked in, something I had never encountered on the R888s and didn’t remember doing on the Dunlops.
Possibly due to how hard they were having to work, the pressures (as monitored by the onboard TPMS) also rose more than they ever had with other tyres. I had to let some nitrogen out of the front left, something I’d never had to do before.
However on the upside, they seemed to show little wear after two hard days use (indeed they have a treadwear rating of 300, which is much higher than the OEM tyres and Toyos). Wet weather use has yet to be tested, but other reports suggest they are much less prone to aquaplaning than the others.
So in conclusion, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport is a far more comfortable, quieter and harder wearing tyre than the OEM Dunlops/Bridgestones and will probably handle wet conditions much better too. Although final pricing has not been officially announced yet, they will also cost considerably less than the Nissan dealer-only Dunlops (in the £300-£350 each pricerange versus £500 or more for the Dunlops).
However on track, the front tyres could really benefit from going up in size and to that end I am keen to try a 285/35 set up all round.
[Follow me on Twittter: @Auto_Journals including notification of new blog entries here]