The good people at Goodyear Tires, no pun intended, invited Turbo magazine to Akron, Ohio, to take a VIP tour through the Good-year Tires technical center. This technical center, completed in 1983, is one of the two primary tire technical centers from which the company operates for the United States and Europe. The Akron technical center is spread over an area of 700,000 square feet of floor space and facilitates over 1,200 engineers, scientists, technicians, and other specialists to create new tire concepts for a wide variety of vehicles on six continents. Prototype (experimental) tires and Goodyear race tires are manufactured on the first three floors, and floors four and five are occupied by tire R&D engineers, scientists, and technical specialists. Many might assume that Goodyear makes tires for automobiles only but the truth is they also cater to industrial, construction, agricultural, and earthmover vehicles, aircrafts, and racing vehicles.
Before our tour of the technical center began, we were shuttled off to the main hangar facility in Akron and given a once-in-a-lifetime ride in the iconic Goodyear Blimp. The monstrosity of this blimp comes into perspective as you stand in the hangar that houses this behemoth. With throttles at max power, we cruised through the Akron area at a brisk 35 mph and got a bird's-eye view of the Goodyear 82-acre test track used for ride, handling, and traction testing, aka the "Black Sea" for its size. The track consists of 12 different test areas for an instant evaluation of prototype tires produced in the technical center.
I rubbed my hands in anticipation as I sat there staring at the black tarmac. Goodyear scheduled the invited media to test their new Eagle GT tires, recently released to the general public in July of 2008. Scheduled to release additional tire sizes by September, Goodyear offers a 43-size lineup ranging from 15- to 22-inch wheel diameter sizes. The Eagle GT tire was designed using an aggressive dual-zone asymmetric tread pattern. The outer pattern uses an outboard high-performance zone to aid grip and responsive handling while the inner treads consist of an all-season zone for all-season traction. A close-up analysis of the tire treads show the patented Goodyear's TredLock technology microgrooves in the all-season zone, which provide all-season traction during normal driving but lock together in handling maneuvers to provide a solid foundation for cornering.
Our tour through the Akron technical center ended in the early afternoon but not before we were better educated on how Goodyear tires were designed, constructed, and shipped out to retail distributors. We were treated with a tour though the anechoic test lab where newly developed tires ran though a gambit of runs to ensure minimum road noise and a simulator running the official NASCAR tires at speeds of over 200 mph to study tire wear and fatigue. These are just a few highlights from the tour.
A quick Q and A session was established before we were carted off to the proving grounds where Goodyear provided three 3 Series BMWs with different sets of tires to showcase how well the new Eagle GT held up against the competition. One vehicle was shod in a set of Kumho rubbers, another used a preproduction tire tread Eagle GT, and the third had their newest version of the GTs. A few hot laps through the autocross configuration setup, complete with a wet condition segment, offered some details into how well the new Eagle GT tires performed against the competition. The tires were noticeably more stable though the wet course area, as my attempts to initiate a full-blown drift were futile thanks in part to the design of the tires. The dry portion of the track enabled the vehicle to enter the corners at a higher rated speed with less noticeable understeer and more bite when entering into the turns, compared to the older Goodyear tires and the BMW sporting its competitors' brand. "The sidewall styling and tread pattern are progressive and youth-influenced," Joey Viselli says, the Goodyear brand director. "These consumers, particularly younger performance drivers, want a tire with styling and handling yet they drive their cars all year long, so all-season capability is a must."
The new Eagle GT completes the Goodyear performance tire lineup, offering an all-season high-performance Eagle at an attractive price, and complementing the brand's three premium ultra high-performance offerings: the Eagle F1 GS-D3.