There’s a classic photo from an old issue of Road and Track with a guy standing at the side of the road lighting a cigarette. Below him, resting against a tree, is a wrecked Ferrari 512 BB. The caption says something to the effect of “Good tires, but not great tires.” Forty years later, in a different Ferrari, another driver recently thought the same thing.
This time the Ferrari is a yellow 296 GTB testing at the Nurburgring. Fortunately, he doesn’t crash like the guy in the 512 BB, but it’s clear from the video he has his hands full. At one point, the 296 GTB brakes hard, causing it to fishtail slightly. Later it can be seen with its hazard lights on, driving moderately through a section of bends in the rolling hills.
Back on the power, the driver overshoots a downhill right-hand turn. He puts all four wheels off the track, with two tires completely in the grass. With a combination of skill and nerves of steel, he corrects his line, bringing the yellow Ferrari back onto the track with little drama. A less experienced driver would likely have overcorrected, leading to snap oversteer and a backward slide into the waiting embrace of the Armco barrier.
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The good vs. great tires joke is funny because it’s about someone who did something dumb with an expensive number of zeros behind it. But it’s also funny because it’s true. For most drivers who never set foot on a track or push their car to the limit, the difference between good and great tires is minimal. But for a seasoned race car driver, it’s everything.
Better grip equals faster acceleration, shorter braking distances, and higher lateral g-forces, adding to better lap times. The S in Michelin Pilot Sport S won’t make you Superman or Superwoman, but it could spell the difference between finishing in the middle of the pack or on the podium.
According to the video description, the car is a 2023 Ferrari 296 GTB in preparation for a Sport Auto Supertest with Christian Gebhardt. Hopefully, they will get the tire issues sorted out, and we’ll see and hear the Ferrari really put through its paces on the Nurburgring soon.