So last week I had mentioned that I was heading down to Laguna Seca with my 2013 Ford Mustang GT. Aside from being a factory track pack car, the only upgrades are stainless steel brake lines, upgraded pads and some high temp fluid, otherwise, that’s it. When it came to tires (and as mentioned in my previous post) I ditched the worn out Pirelli P Zero’s and mounted a shiny new set of Michelin Pilot Super Sports. The goal was to baseline the car in stock form for a year and then incrementally upgrade it based on my findings.
Understand that the Mustang is probably the most modified car in the U.S. aside from the Mazda Miata. They’re relatively inexpensive, fast, and a wet dream as far as the aftermarket is concerned. The problem with this is that most of the upgrades are performed based on little or no personal experience and are mainly derived from opinions from unqualified individuals. The end result is a bunch of poorly set-up machines driven by people who live life one forum post at a time.
Now, if you do one modification to your automobile, make it your tires. People fail to realize that your cars tires are your connection point to the pavement and are arguably the single most important part on your car. A good set will offer improved braking in both emergency and daily driving situations, a quieter / smoother ride, better wet-weather traction and more performance when the road and or track gets twisty. For some reason though, people love to skimp on tires and will purchase bargain brands that in most cases, are inferior to the original OEM equipment – it boggles the mind.
Onto the tires – Michelin Pilot SuperSport:
ROAD NOISE: Much less road noise as compared to the Pirelli P Zero. In fact I never realized how noisy the P Zero actually was until the Michelin’s were mounted. The subtle hum that used to accompany my drives was now replaced solely by some minor wind noise that crept into the cabin thanks to the Mustang’s frame-less windows. On the surface this may not seem like a big deal, however if you partake in long distance drives like I do, all that noise accelerates fatigue and will eventually take its toll on you.
*Let’s see: GT3 RS, GT-R, Ferrari 458, Ariel Atom and… me, in a stock Mustang GT. Yeah. They’re nervous…
ON-ROAD Performance: The Super Sports offer up a smoother ride, there is no question about that. The Mustang is a 3,600-pound chub-chub of an automobile with a relatively stiff suspension, so anything that smooths out its “on-road” appeal is more than welcome. At highway and around town speeds the tires offered positive feedback and seemed to work well with the stock suspension to smooth out road imperfections. Unfortunately though I have yet to evaluate them in the rain, so I simply can’t offer any feedback on their wet-weather traction (DAMN YOU CALIFORNIA!)
ON-TRACK Performance: Mazda Laguna Seca: Out of the gate the differences were immediate. Braking performance was drastically improved and I was able to dive onto the brakes at much later braking points then I could with the Pirelli P Zero. All new Mustangs suffer from extensive brake dive, and while this still occurred, it was the transition from the dive into a hard corner where I really noticed the difference. Whereas the old tires would push drastically and make you fight for traction, the Super Sports offered tons more grip. This unfortunately meant more body roll out of the car, but that’s simply the result of having more traction at the limit with a soft suspension.
Immediate weight transfer was another area where the Super Sports shine. For example, when entering the corkscrew and heading into turn 9, you’re faced with a situation that goes from being very hard on the brakes, to a sudden left-right-left transition that places you in a continuous downhill off-camber left. It’s a hairy combination and one (especially turn 9) that I loathed, however the tires truly transformed this once unruly combo into a section that is now completely manageable. I wasn’t fighting for grip like I used to, but instead, was finally able to take this section with confidence as the car seemed firmly planted and secure.
To put it into perspective, my best time around Laguna Seca on the stock Pirelli P Zero’s was a 1:50.686, whereas on the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, I ran a best of 1:48.00. That’s over a 2.5 second improvement based on changing nothing but the tires. Now, is that a fast time in a stock Mustang GT for this track? Honestly, I’m not sure. What I do know however is that when people ask me my thoughts on the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, my answer will be simple – Pretty. Damn. Good.