Car fans are a weird bunch.
We’re divided by car choice, engine aspiration, driven wheels, gearbox type and even the vehicle’s country of origin. We’ll take this to the point of arguing blind with strangers on the internet to get our view across. Take one look at our comments section if you’re unsure about that.
There’s one thing that car people get passionate about more than most, though, and that’s what tyres to run.
You’d think it would be simple; after all, cars need tyres whether they are EV, hybrid, diesel or some other futuristic powertrain. If they touch the ground they need tyres. The truth is, there is no perfect answer. There are so many performance parameters even before you consider that everyone’s needs and budgets are different. It doesn’t get any easier when you look towards the high performance track tyre end of the market, either.
In the early days, Michelin’s original Pilot Sport Cup tyre was just about the only serious, motorsport-derived and road-legal track day choice. Manufacturers specced it as an OE tyre, and it came on some of the hottest Porsche offerings. Savvy aftermarket enthusiasts soon caught wind of this advantage and followed suit.
Today, the road/track tyre market is a hotly contested one, with the big guys and relatively new companies all battling it out for your attention. This subject is probably the topic of discussion for performance-focused guys, and I’m ashamed to say I am one of them. My name is Ryan Stewart and I’m a Michelin guy.
But before you bash me with a Pirelli-shaped hammer, let me tell you my story, and in return I’ll listen to your viewpoint in the comments. Sound like a deal?
Around a year ago, I was getting ready for a Volkswagen show called Ultimate Dubs. I know this statement doesn’t really make any sense, but stick with me. I didn’t yet have wheels for my E92 M3, but I did have a space at the show.
Now everyone knows that stock wheels don’t really cut it in a show environment and I was already letting the team down with a BMW. I had to think fast.
Luckily, Mark Riccioni had just got a set of stunning BBS E88s delivered for his E61 M5 Touring (RIP, sort of), and he kindly offered them to me to borrow for the weekend. Suffice to say I was a little bit nervous about this wife-swap, but as soon as my car dropped off the jack stand I was sold.
The way the gold and silver looked against the matte black paint was amazing, and even better they were shod in fresh Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The sidewalls looked perfect; the almost flocked effect Michelin logos were an incredible detail. I had the best weekend on those wheels, and before long I found myself looking for a track wheel and tyre combo for my E92 M3 project.
At the time the car was using Michelin’s now superseded Pilot Super Sport tyre. They had been added to the M3 in standard sizes and I’d been using them for the odd track day and on the road, and they worked just fine.
The Super Sport is a road-biased tyre and I never expected them to light my life up on circuit, although they did hold up really very well. It was this unexpected performance, plus my previous encounter with Mark’s wheels that led me to want to try the next tyre up in the range, the Pilot Sport Cup 2 (PSC2).
Not that I was going to put them on the stock wheels, mind you. As you know, new tyres are almost always triggered by new wheels, and I couldn’t get the weekend fling with Mark’s out of my head. No prizes for guessing that I selected Nürburgring-nerd-certified BBS E88s then. These were just like Mark’s but a little wider and smaller diameter in order to fit 265/35R18 and 295/30R18 tyres, the go-to sizes for the E92.
Keen-eyed readers will also notice that mine were motorsport-centred, face-mount style that do not allow the fitment of a centre cap, which is pretty hardcore. Little did I know, this would be the first of many sets of Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, and the first of many Nürburgring trips in the car.
It’s safe to say I got the bug for both.
The PCS2 is primarily a track tyre, but one that offers very good road manners. It has very low noise and pretty good wet weather performance, which meant that they wouldn’t be irritating on the long drive to Germany.
I’d not be put in a stressful situation if the unpredictable Eifel weather took a turn for the worse either, but most importantly, the tyre offered huge levels of grip compared to what I had run previously.
At this point I could rehash and type Michelin’s own website or copy and paste a press release to tell you about the bi-compound technology and how a “more rigid elastomer optimizes steering control and wet grip” – but I won’t do you the disservice. What I will tell you is that I ran to a total of six sets of PSC2 over the last year, in many different sizes on many different wheels, both staggered and square, 18 and 19-inch. That should surely qualify me as able to talk about these black circles at length. In case you’re interested, here’s the rundown of the setups:
– 255/35R19 and 275/35R19 with BBS E88
– 265/35R18 and 295/30R18 with BBS E88
– 265/35R18 and 295/30R18 with BBS E88
– 265/35R19 and 295/30R19 with BMW GTS wheels
– 265/35R18 and 295/30R18 with Rotiform BUC-M
– 285/30R18 with BBS RE1598
Six sounds like a lot, and I guess a set of tyres every couple of months is quite a rate of consumption when you type it out. But you have to remember this 450bhp track car weighs in at a hefty 1,550kgs (3,417lbs) with me in it, even with an extensive weight reduction of 100kgs (220lbs) over stock. It’ll post sub-8-minute Nürburgring laps all day long and drive home without a hiccup.
This leads me to my next thought – the abuse that these tyres have put up with in their lifespan. It’s incredible really.
During this time I’ve done more than 10 track days, including four trips to the ‘Ring. I’ve done 180mph (290km/h) at every legal opportunity, I’ve smoked the rears for videos, hammered tracks in 30°C+ (86ºF+) heat in the height of summer, plus travelled home in torrential rain and sub-zero temperatures, too.
I’ve done all of this without really even thinking about it. None of this is in the original design remit of the PSC2 I’m sure, but the sort of thing that they take without so much as a murmur.
It’s for these reasons then that I love the Pilot Sport Cup 2. It’s not necessarily about the huge headline grip they offer when at full chat, although that is of course a factor. It’s more the confidence and reliability that they offer.
I’m not going to bore you with describing the steering feel or on-the-limit assurance like a time-served expert road tester – I’m simply not qualified enough of a driver to impart that knowledge.
I can however be 100% sure that if I were to pick one tyre to rule them all, to tackle a new track and not give me any nasty surprises, to take on a journey to the Nürburgring and endure all the potential pitfalls and hazards along the way, that tyre would be the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2.