VIZZOLA, Italy-Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. will begin offering a new performance tire concept this fall that it claims provides owners of high-powered vehicles better control of the road, even in wet-weather conditions. Developed by Pirelli S.p.A. in Europe, the P Zero System combines two methods of thinking, according to Christopher Pantani, assistant product manager, passenger and light truck tires for PATC. It takes an asymmetrical tire and combines it with a directional tire to deliver more precise response for high-speed driving.
PATC introduced the P Zero System, which replaces the old P Zero line, to North American tire and automotive journalists at Pirelli's wet-driving test track in Vizzola in late June.
U.S. dealers will see the tires starting in October. Currently, they are available in Europe and Japan.
The P Zero System tire line employs two tire configuration options and is made up of two Z-rated tires-the Direzionale, a new directional radial, and the Asimmetrico, an asymmetric tire.
By applying these tires on a vehicle either in tandem or separately, Pirelli claims it has met the technical challenge of ``power with control.''
The result, according to a company brochure, is ``heighten(ed) performance, safety and driving pleasure; in the dry and especially in the wet.''
In developing the P Zero System, Pirelli analyzed tire performance, particularly in the wet.
In such conditions, the role of the front tires is to clear road surface water, the company said. With wider tires, such as those found on performance vehicles, the volume of water confronted by the tire is increased and the distance required to drain water across the tread pattern is greater. This raises the potential for aquaplaning.
Pirelli claims to have solved the problem of wet-surface roadholding with the P Zero Direzionale. This tire features a new wet handling compound and a directional tread pattern with an arrow-head formation, which improves its ability to expel water at high speeds, according to the company.
``This rapid dispersal of surface water allows the tire's footprint to make direct contact with the road,'' the company said.
The P Zero Asimmetrico, on the other hand, is designed to transmit torque to the road surface. This tire, a variation of the original P Zero, features a multi-purpose tread pattern providing maximum grip and reduced heat buildup, the company said. It, too, has a special tread compound for wet adhesion and is designed for reduced noise, Mr. Pantani said.
By combining these two tire types-putting Direzionales on the front and Asimmetricos on the rear-the company believes it has effectively enhanced the overall wet roadhandling ability of high performance vehicles.
``The directional front tires push water away and give a better steering path,'' Mr. Pantani said. ``That allows the torque tire to follow through and power the car.''
This combination is well suited for high-speed rear-wheel drive cars used in the wet and dry, Pirelli said. It is recommended for cars with low aspect ratio tires, particularly when the front tires differ in size from the rear.
For small front-wheel-drive sedans used for dry-surface high-speed driving, Pirelli recommends Asimmetricos on all four wheels. This configuration is suited to cars with medium- to narrow-section front tires all the same size.
PATC will offer 43 sizes of P Zero System tires, several with Z subcategory speed ratings of W (up to 168 mph) and Y (up to 186 mph).
Pricing will be similar to the current P Zero models.