GOODYEAR has entered the Ultra Ultra High Performance (UUHP) tyre market with its new Eagle F1 SuperSport range that will fly the flag for the brand’s cutting-edge technologies and hit Australian outlets from May.
Although the Goodyear Eagle F1 range will kick off with the Asymmetric 5 – the successor to the Asymmetric 3 as Chinese markets view the number four as an omen of death – it will be the SuperSport, SuperSport R and SuperSport RS that will line up against the likes of Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S and the Pirelli P Zero Cup 2 rubber for bragging rights at the racetrack.
Speaking to Australian journalists at the SuperSport range’s launch at the Ascari racetrack in Spain, Goodyear Europe vice-president and chief marketing officer Mike Rytokoski said the new flagship line-up will showcase the best of what the brand has to offer as its first entrant into the top-tier tyre market.
“Goodyear is about technology, we’ve always stood for technology and if you position the brand on technology, and you really want to win in the marketplace, you’ve really got to have the tyres in that (UUHP) segment,” he said.
“We have technologies that we want to display, and whilst this is a fairly small segment, it is an important segment in terms of like, hey, it can demonstrate what you can do.
“Goodyear is … a brand that we position for driving technology, and we believe that in today’s world, the tyre technologies are even more important, so that’s how we will win in the marketplace, by making sure we have the best technologies, and now we have tyres in the segment most demanding for technology and we’re showcasing that.”
Starting with the SuperSport, a new compound mixture has improved grip in all conditions, while a strengthened outside shoulder has resulted in less rubber deformation during cornering for a wider contact patch.
To communicate such characteristics to the driver, the tyre’s sidewall has also been stiffened, which additionally improves steering feel and control, according to Goodyear.
As a result, Goodyear says the SuperSport tyre is 0.54 seconds quicker than the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S around its 3.3km test track in Mireval, France.
The base SuperSport grade is targeted towards sportscars such as the Ford Focus RS and Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 that might do the occasional track day but spend most of its time on the streets.
Stepping up to the SuperSport R adds extra bridging elements between the shoulder and ridges for improved tyre rigidity during high-speed cornering, as well as a stickier rubber compound.
Goodyear is aiming the SuperSport R at owners who might split their driving 50/50 between the road and circuit, with cars such as the BMW M4 CS or Mercedes-AMG GT R cited as examples.
Finally, the flagship SuperSport RS borrows from Goodyear’s motorsport experience with a race-derived rubber compound for improved levels of grip, targeted at the likes of the hardcore, track-focused Porsche 911 GT2 RS.
All versions of the Eagle F1 SuperSport are street legal and will be available 37 differing sizes – 31 for the SuperSport, four for the SuperSport R and just two currently for the SuperSport RS – to cover 90 per cent of the targeted vehicle segment that is also experiencing double-digit percentage growth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Goodyear.
Australian pricing, however, is still yet to be revealed, while Goodyear Australia senior manager of brand, communications and marketing Tony Kiernan said “it’s a very hard category to try and predict demand”.
Mr Kiernan also revealed that the SuperSport, and more so the niche R and RS versions, would not be carried across Goodyear’s entire Australian network but rather focused on areas of higher demand.
“It’s always down the locality and their carparc,” he said. “You can imagine there are a few city-type ones that will probably do it, some of the country ones, probably less.
“When you consider that an average tyre store can stock 300 tyres, divide that by four … so, in most cases, we’ll supply and deliver quickly out.
“Most stores won’t be stocking these, it’s just very difficult for them to predict when a tyre drives on the apron and then wants one of these things, so most cases we’ll support our dealers.”
Our initial impressions of the SuperSport range bode well for Goodyear’s bid into the UUHP market, though it can be hard to derive a definitive answer without a back-to-back comparison in the same vehicles and in similar conditions.
While the SuperSport RS tyres were not on the menu at Ascari, we sampled the base SuperSports in a Ferrari 488 GTB and Alpine A110 for dry and wet handling respectively, as well as the SuperSport R fitted to a Porsche 911 GT3 RS.
Starting with the SuperSport tyres in a Ferrari 488 GTB, we were impressed with the strong level of mid-corner grip, which gave us the confidence to lean in a little more and push a little harder in the bends – not easy in a half a million dollar mid-engine supercar.
However, with braking and acceleration in the 488 already at such prodigious levels, we were not able to ascertain the specific levels improvements with the SuperSports fitted.
Switching into the Alpine A110 for wet cornering in the same tyre also yielded positive results.
With a mid-engine, rear-drive format and slick surface, the reborn Alpine’s backend expectedly wanted to break loose at every turn of the wheel.
However, we found a highly communicative steering and progressive loss of control meant we were very easily able to catch the sliding rear end with some light opposite lock, despite our clumsy reactions time.
Finally, lapping a section of Ascari’s famed circuit in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Goodyear’s SuperSport R tyre proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience thanks to the confidence-inspiring rubber.
A long, sweeping corner meant that we could keep our right foot buried for as long as our courage would last, while quick direction changes did nothing to unstick the competent and compliant 911 GT3 RS.
Stepping out of the Porsche we certainly got the sense that our bowels would let go much sooner than the SuperSport R’s grip.
Now of course, the big question mark above all this is how much are Goodyear’s tyres actually improving some of the most driver-focused vehicles on the market?
After all, there are other factors to consider when it comes to grip, steering feel and braking, such as a limited-slip differential, weight distribution and, well, brake size.
All we can say for certain, however, is that not once in our time testing the tyres did we feel out of control or in need of more grip, even in vehicles with nearly 500kW of power on hand.