Michelin Pilot Experience

by Mike Satterfield

This past week I was invited out to spend some time with the team from Michelin Tires. The purpose to test out the latest version of their legendary Pilot Sport series of tires the Pilot Sport 4 S. The event was hosted at the palatial Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage and upon arrival I was greeted with all kinds of amazing gifts including gear from UAS and Michelin, as well as a new DXO One Camera that I used to shoot the photos in this story.

Heading out to the first cocktail mixer of the event I started recognizing some of the other guests, celebrities, journalists, racing drivers, bloggers, and a few YouTubers. The night was amazing, music, drinks, a great presentation on Michelin, all capped off with an amazing dinner by a Michelin Star rated chef that they had flown in for the event. 

The next morning in the rain we were driven out to a small parking area in the desert, waiting for us were three incredible cars. Each of us would get turn behind the wheel of a Ferrari California, Audi R8 V10, and an AMG Mercedes C63, all equipped with the new Pilot Sport 4 S tires. We would be piloting these cars across Joshua Tree National Park with a driving partner. My driving partner was actress Emelia Hartford, who is a certified car nut, and one heck of a driver.

Photo via Vice Media

The rain gave us a chance to try the new tires in extrem conditions, pouring rain, muddy roads, damp roads as the sun came out, and the new 4 S tires were impressive. In all of our hooning about in in other people's super cars, I never felt out of control. Pushing the Ferrari hard through the canyon in the rain soaked roads, the tires felt responsive, the grip was impressive, it made me wish that we didn't have a CHP escort so I could push it a bit more.

After testing all of the cars in and around Joshua Tree National Park, we drove to The Thermal Club for lunch and the team shared some technical knowledge on the new Pilot 4 S. The amount of engineering and research that went into these new tires is impressive, and something most consumers never think about. After lunch we would get to find out how all that engineering translated on the track in several events.

Out on the track we tested Michelin against the competition, all the cars were the same BMW 3 series, all on the same HRE Wheels, the only difference, the brand of tires. I personally drove on the Bridgestones, Continentals, and Michelins. The difference was amazing, the control, grip, and recovery time felt better with the new Michelin tires and the raw data proved it. Stopping distance was 20 feet shorter on average in my tests and my autocross times were faster by nearly 2 full seconds. Now this performance comes at a price, with the Michelin tire costing more than it's rivals, but I have to say the Michelin tires inspired confidence and really made a difference on the autocross track.

Photo via Vice Media
After autocross we headed over to the lead-follow session at the track where we had helmets strapped on and were put into brand new BMW M4s and told to chase after a pro driver in a M2. It was a blast and I was impressed with how much grip the Pilot Sport S 4 tires really provided. Again these are not track tires, these are street tires, with a 30,000 mile warranty. Needless to say I was impressed, I also was blow away with how different it feels to race a modern car like the M4 vs the classic cars I have taken out on the track. This experience has made me more than ever want to go to racing school and get my SCCA license.

Taking the Green M4 out on the track for some lead follow laps. Photo via Vice Media.
I finished the lead-follow session and headed across to the other side of the track where a fleet of super cars were being prepped. From the AMG GT and Audi R8 to the Shelby GT350R and Corvette Z07, we were in for a treat. In these cars we would be riding along as pro drivers took these cars to their limits out on the track. My ride was a blue Audi R8 V10 driven by a Michelin test driver who's name I couldn't hear through my helmet and the noise on the track.

The sun was setting and our hosts ushered us to the restaurant and lawn at The Thermal Club where a cocktail reception would keep us busy until dinner another Michelin Star meal was ready. It was an end to an amazing day. As we all shared stories over a drink, it was interesting to hear the same thing over and over from people, they loved the driving experience. Of course they loved the hotel, food, the incredible hospitality, the swag bags, and hanging out with celebrities, but the conversation would always go back to their passion for driving.

Photo via Vice Media
It was that passion for driving and motor sports that was shown from the team a Michelin that really made an impression on me. They have made a commitment to enhancing the driving experience. The new PS4S tires will be released shortly and will firstly be offered in 18" and 19" sizes with a wider range following. For more visit MichelinMan.com.