More than two years of development went into the production of the latest ultra high performance tire from Pirelli. I came to Portugal where some of the latest and best sportscars were fitted with the new P Zero and put into test at the former F1 race track in Estoril.
As cars are ever evolving and getting better with every lifecycle update, the tires are not left behind either as development is getting more and more complex. Nowadays the requirements for tires are different than 20 years ago and therefore Pirelli tries to combine all of those aspects into one tire.
The P Zero comes with three different tread patterns. One for luxury saloons and comfortable limousines where the focus is on comfort and noise reduction by specially tweaking the outer shoulder of the tire. The second P Zero model is made especially for sportscars where the focus is put more on dynamic driving, dry handling, lateral stability and grip. And then there is number three which is the P Zero corsa for high performance sportscars such as McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari or Pagani which are also used on the track.
Although there are three different treads, Pirelli’s customization goes way beyond that. In fact Pirelli has 60 homologations for the new P Zero already, all of which are tailor made for each car brand and model. This basically means that the P Zero tire on a BMW 7 series is not the same specification as the P Zero tire on an Audi A8. That way, Pirelli creates the perfect fit for every type of car.
Thanks to an advanced software simulation model a lot of development cost can be saved, as a digital model of the car is enough to develop the perfect fitting tire for it. Otherwise, 60 different homologations would be next to impossible to achieve in terms of research and development expenses. But there is another advantage: a lot of development time is saved as well. The perfect tire is basically ready even before the corresponding car is on the market.
Prices start at 1150 Euro for a set of P Zeros sized 245/30ZR20 (front) and 305/30ZR20 (rear) for the Audi R8 as an example but these prices vary by size and car of course.
From the Penha Longa Resort we had the opportunity to drive the new P Zero on a variety of sportscars and luxury saloons on public roads. As luck would have it, I was assigned the BMW i8, one of the most interesting cars these days, as I find. The route took me and my co-driver Robert through some smaller Portuguese cities where we could experience the total silence of the P Zero thanks to the i8 running on electricity and some twisty b-roads in the outbacks of Lisbon towards Estoril racetrack.
Here I could already experience that the BMW i8 specification of the new P Zero obviously puts a lot of focus on maximum grip, stability and little rolling resistance / total silence. The i8 felt like it was going on rails through the narrow corners on the sometimes bumpy roads and steering felt very precise.
In total the tires gave both Robert and me a maximum feeling of security from the first corner to the last. In search for a proper photo/video location we even went offroad on some gravel path with quite deep potholes which seemed to get absorbed by the car and tires really well, although I am sure this is not the best environment to test the abilities of the new tires :-)
After a two hours drive we reached the Autodromo do Estoril, former F1 racetrack of Portugal. The cars here at the track were all equipped with the Pirelli P Zero Corsa for maximum performance. I had the chance to hop into the new Ferrari 488 GTB, the 991 Porsche Turbo S and the Lamborghini Huracan to get an overview of how the tire feels on three very different cars and with three different specifications.
First in line was the Ferrari 488 GTB with 570 hp. Unfortunately the ESP settings were set to a very conservative setting, so it was hard to find the limit of the car and the tires in corners because the sophisticated ESP system seemed to cut power always quite a bit too early. Still the lateral G-forces were very high and I maneuvered the car through the corners quickly.
Second I gave the Porsche 991 Turbo S a go and oh my god that car was fast. Thanks to the rear engine and the great AWD system the car seemed to have endless traction with the new P Zero corsa. It felt so much faster than the 488. Accelerating out of the corners was possible way earlier as was braking later. So although no lap times were taken I am sure there was quite a gap in my times between the 488 and the Turbo S.
Last car for me was the Lamborghini Huracan LP580-2 with rear wheel drive only. As the only car of the three that was naturally aspirated the subjective feeling obviously was a bit slower, however with the ESP setting set to Corsa mode, the car could easily be put a bit sideways before the electronics put me back on a straight line. So although the Ferrari and the Porsche may have been faster I would be lying if I said the Huracan was slow. And I admit that going sideways was probably most fun of the day, until that point at least.
After I was done with the three cars, I had the unique opportunity to do hot laps with professional drivers in cars such as the AMG GT-S, McLaren 570 S, Lamborghini Aventador and the mighty Pagani Huayra BC, which was obviously the star of the event.
Pagani testdriver Andrea took me for a spin in the Huayra BC and although I have driven a fair share of fast cars and have been passenger in some other race cars with skilled drivers, this experience was out of this world. I couldn’t believe how fast it was around the same track I just piloted a Ferrari 488 on. It made me feel stupidly slow.
Of course the combination of a professional racing driver, a hypercar such as the Pagani Huayra BC and the P Zero Corsa as the perfect tire opens a whole new world, but it was still hard to grasp for me. Certainly an experience I will never forget and it just shows that there really seems to be a perfect tire for every purpose.
At the pits Pirelli also showed us how they make prototypes for new tires. They take a tire with no tread, put on a map of tread with a laser and then cut out the rubber by hand. After that they put it to the test and refine the tread pattern where necessary until it works perfectly. That way they can respond and react immediately to how the tire performs in the test. This again saves a lot of development time and expenses and only when the perfect pattern is found, the tire will go into production.
After a lot of track action I was shuttled back to the hotel for some recreational time before heading out for a short walk to the dinner location. Pirelli have impressed me a lot with their latest ultra high performance tire and I am sure that the P Zero is a great choice for any high performance car or luxury saloon.