It was a new idea at the time: we would assess cars first and largely keep photographers at bay until later.
It was in 2005, I think, and the idea of Adam, then Autocar test editor.
We were planning a big group test on the race track, which would take place over several days. Previously, car testing and photography on jobs like this would have happened around each other – with photographers and employees hired in a few test cars at a time on unused parts of a track for take pictures, possibly of the car to the side, while assessment done elsewhere.
But not more: we had noticed that the track photography was wearing down the shoulders of the tires, affecting the response and the precision of the steering. We should therefore test first, on new tires.
There might have been some growling from the photo department about it. Track testing is not without its risks, and car damage or breakdown could mean a car couldn’t proceed until there were plenty of photos of it. And as one of our old art publishers said, “You can make up the words, but you can’t make up the pictures.”
Until the mid-2000s, that just wasn’t a problem. As Andrew Frankel told me, the brakes would wear out on the track, sure, but the pressures set and the tires would largely stay in shape for a few days of testing.
But if an increase in tire wear started to be noticeable in 2005, it is today on a whole different scale. Pick the wrong car today and its tires won’t fall over several days, but over several laps.
There are many factors that you can blame – if that’s the right word -, but they all basically boil down to the heat. Cars today are generally both much more powerful and much heavier than ever before, but at the same time they turn and stop much more efficiently.
All of this energy ends up between the car and the road via four rubber plates no larger than the palm of your hand. An astonishing amount of power runs through them, and although they meet horsepower and torque demands closer to four digits than two, and with nearly two tons of mass behind, something has to give. They should be optimized for performance, not longevity.
So much so that we largely gave up the lap times in our Britain’s best car competition. It was a good idea once to attach the VBox data logger to a car while testing it and see what it did. But when it gets to the point where a manufacturer says they’d like to help with the tires, put on a new set and say there’s basically three quick laps before performance starts to drop, it’s kinda silly.
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This notice was published: 2021-04-29 23:01:23