Racing In The Californian Desert33.8303° N, 116.5453° W
"Burned Rubber, Champagne, & Michelin Star Meals"
It was in the middle of January, and we escaped the cold clutches of winter to Palm Springs, where Michelin had invited us to test out their latest sport performance tire, the Pilot 4 S. It was set to be the replacement for the Michelin Pilot Supersport, a tire that has been recognized as one of the best in its class. So for many automotive enthusiasts, they were expecting a lot from this new rubber. This trip excited us for multiple reasons, one of them being that their new tire would be equipped on some of the best supercars in the world, and that we would be served dinner by a Michelin Star Chef.
While it’s true that designing and creating tires is Michelin’s mainstay, it’s certainly not the brand’s only interests. They also have the renowned Michelin guide behind them. It all began in 1900 when brothers Édouard and André Michelin published the first edition of the guide for French motorists. The pages held detailed maps, tire repair and replacement instructions, car mechanics listings, hotels, and petrol stations throughout France. During its initial distribution the guide was given out for free. However, when André Michelin saw them being used to hold up a workbench the brothers started started charging a fee under the principle, “man only truly respects what he pays for.” In the few short years after its first issue, they began to write it for countries like Belgium, Spain, and Italy. Moreover, there was a growing emphasis on highlighting restaurants, and in 1926 they began awarding stars to the best establishments in the region. The format, until this day, remains unchanged and it goes as follows: one star signifies “a very good restaurant”, two stars are “excellent cooking that is worth a detour”, and three stars mean “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey.”
Before we embarked on our journey into Palm Springs, we sat down to enjoy a dinner prepared by Curtis Duffy, an American chef whose Chicago based restaurant, Grace, has been awarded three Michelin Stars three consecutive years in a row. Duffy’s high conceptualized approach was put on display for us that even we as non-professional food writers can not properly describe. Although, what we can say is that the presentation is unlike anything we’ve ever seen or tasted. In short, Curtis Duffy successfully combines the technical, creative, and emotional facets of the culinary arts, only to elevate it to another level.
When we awoke in the morning, the clouds were grey and there was rain in the forecast. Nonetheless, we continued on to our first drop off point just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, where were met with a line-up of incredible vehicles. The three vehicles that were in attendance was the 476-horsepower Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe, the 552-horsepower Ferrari California T, and the 610-horsepower Audi R8 V10 Plus. To add fuel to our flame, we were told that we would periodically switch cars throughout the drive. All of them were equipped with Michelin’s PS4S tire. What made this drive even more spectacular is that we would be given a police escort all throughout our drive. This meant that we could truly push the cars to their near limits, legally. What followed for the next three hours was a an exhilarating drive through Joshua Tree National Park. Normally most would stop and enjoy the view but in this case, we marvelled at through it at high speeds, gawking at the rolling hills while conquering its winding roads at a breakneck pace. We were conscious of the tires of course, as they barrelled us through the mud, dirt, and standing water that was left behind after the showers had subsided. The rubber definitely felt sticky and its generous wideness kept the super cars
These attributes, which we learned later at the Race Club, were made possible due to several key innovations from Michelin. One of them is the wide contact patch on the PS4S, which is aided by a hybrid nylon belt that helps maintain the ideal grip to the ground, as well as keeping the shape of the tire consistent. This is especially important at high speeds and high g-force cornering. Continually, the advanced rubber compound allows the PS4S distribute the overall load and temperature that the pressure will generate, thus resulting in better grip . Tire tread is also important and for this Michelin has applied an asymmetrical tread pattern, along with a multi-tread compound. More specifically, the outside of the PS4S is more rigid, while the interior is softer with finer lines.
The final destination of our drive was the Thermal Race Club, whose track is heralded as one of the finest in the world. The circuit spans over five miles (eight kilometers) and it’s literally a racing oasis within Coachella Valley. Besides it being a very technical circuit that will test your skill, it also comes with stunning views of the surrounding hills. Within the compound, you will find super rare and exotic hypercars casually parked side by side, as well as, an expansive villa that hosts the members as they break from the high speeds.
We went from the road to track and it was at the Race Club where we would be experiencing the Michelin PS4S under more controlled conditions. It’s important to note that the new tire is not meant specifically for the track, but Michelin used this opportunity to show off the PS4S’ strength and resilience.
The first challenge was the autocross where a fleet of BMW 340is sat waiting. Each BMW was fitted with one of Michelin’s competitors and we had to choose between two of Michelin’s competitors then pit it against their PS4S tire. For our case we picked the Pirelli and Goodyear tires against the Michelin. After a few runs with each tire the results revealed that the PS4S was had the most impressive out of them all.
After conquering the autocross, we moved to a configured section of the circuit to push the PS4S in a lead-and-follow exercise. In only took a few laps for us to quickly realize that Michelin’s newest tire can really handle the pressure. The first turn out the straight was super wide and when you pair that with the powerful torque of the M3 – you can expect a lot of pressure. However, turn after turn, brake after brake, the PS4S adjusted in tandem with our driving and it excelled through and through. The day winded down with hot laps provided by professional drivers, and of course, the super cars were equipped with the PS4S. It was exciting to see how the tires could keep up with the driver’s skill.
As we departed for the airport, we left with a much greater appreciation for the tires that we put on our cars. Most of us tend to think that horsepower is the only thing that matters but it isn’t. Besides, without tires, our cars wouldn’t go anywhere. However, the rubber that we choose will determine how safely and efficiently we get to our destinations.
Learn more about the Michelin Performance Sport 4 S tire here.
Words & Photography: Jon Carlo Tapia