SOMEWHERE IN BAJA, MexicoI've had my share of flat tires throughout my 40-plus years of automotive piloting, but none as memorable as the one I got a few weeks back.
As the dateline to this story says, it happened somewhere in Baja, Mexico, during a ride-and-drive event for the launch of Michelin North America Inc.'s BFGoodrich-brand All-Terrain T/A KO2.
Touted as BFG's toughest all-terrain tireever, the second-generation KO was engineered with industry-leading sidewall durability, BFGoodrich executives stressed when detailing the firm's development efforts for the KO2.
Heck, they even ran the tire last year on a squadron of buggies in the Baja 500 and came back with a clean slateno punctures, no failures.
Leave it up to the tire industry media to find the tire's Achilles heel.
Actually, it's not that hard to findanyone with passing knowledge of tires knows it's the lower sidewall, which provides most of any tire's vertical flexing and therefore can't be armor plated like the tread and belt-edge areas.
One of the KO2's new key features is the extended shoulder shield, featuring a tougher rubber compound that's also thicker, designed to increase the tire's resistance to sidewall tearing.
But yours truly managed to find the open air shaft in the Death Stara sufficiently sharp rock positioned about sidewall-lettering-high on the outside of a fast left-hand sweeper through some of Baja's finest sandy canyon bottom terrain.
Since bouncing and jostling about is the norm for the buggies we were driving, I barely even noticed contacting that rock. A brief whiff of hot rubber should have been fair warning, but the buggy's handling didn't change appreciably, so we soldiered on.
What I did notice seemed to be a lack of power, which my co-driver and I put down to the deep sand we were powering through. Or it could have been the fact I was now piloting a one-wheel-drive vehicle.
I suppose it's high praise for the buggy and the tire that I had no idea I was running on a flatfor the better part of four or five miles. It was only when the next car in our group pulled up behind us at the next checkpoint and radioed, Dude, you've got a flat.
Lucky for us BFG made sure there was a pit crew shadowing us. Hector, the lead mechanic, and his crew swapped out the by-now shredded tire for a fresh one and we were on our way.
Later that day the BFG engineers told us they had inspected the tire, but it had been run flat too long to determine the exact cause.
So I spoiled the KO2's perfect run through Baja, although the circumstances are more like spoiling a perfect game with a broken-bat blooper than a walk-off homer.
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