With respect to engines, suspensions, transmissions, and brakes, tyres are the single most important part of a vehicle. You can have the fastest, sharpest car on the planet, but throwing a set of £50-a-piece, no-name tyres from the local Walmart will have a dramatically negative impact on performance. That’s why performance brands spare no expense on rubber.
When the original Bugatti Veyron launched, it did so with a set of Michelins that cost up to £33,500. The tyres aren’t as expensive on the Bugatti Chiron, but they’re still serious pieces of engineering. That’s doubly true of the Michelin rubber that took the car past 300 miles per hour. Speaking to Bugatti’s head of development, Stefan Ellrott, Australia’s Wheels uncovered some of the engineering that went into this particular set of rubber.
According to Ellrott, the two French companies (Michelin’s Clermont-Ferrand headquarters is just a six-hour drive from Bugatti’s digs near Molsheim) took the Chiron’s standard tyre and applied a layer of carbon fibre to the carcass for additional strength. Then the two companies tested, but not with a car.
“We used a plane test bench in Charlotte, [North Carolina], U.S.A., to make sure that the tyre will be okay with more than 311 miles per hour,” Ellrott said. “After that, you might see that 311 mph is okay, so you go faster and faster [with the tyre], so we could see what the fade would be.”
"We used a plane test bench to make sure the tire would be okay with more than 311 mph."
That’s a fancy way of saying Bugatti and Michelin tested the carbon-fibre-reinforced tyres to failure. This was not just for giggles, though. Suffering a blowout at such speeds would almost certainly be fatal for the record-setting Chiron’s driver, Andy Wallace. So, the two companies pushed the tyre to the max to identify warning signs that the tyre was preparing to let go.
"You will first have signs that the tyre is going to be destroyed. There will be noise and vibrations before the tyre completely explodes,” Ellrott told Wheels.
Fortunately for Bugatti, Michelin, and Wallace, aside from a jump, the Chiron hit 304 without issue. According to Wheels, the upgraded Michelins will likely end up on the limited-edition Chiron Super Sport 300+.