04 March 2006

Burning rubber in Bangkok...

This is Bangkok, capital of Thailand. One of the largest cities in South East Asia. The last uncolonised empire of the region. A rich blend of culture, culinary delights and a thriving sex industry (and traffic jams - loads of them).

But bollocks to that, I was there to test some tyres.

Some Bridgestone Turanza GR-80s, if you really need to know (Hell, even I couldn't remember the model number until they made me sit through an hour long presentation).

That's me

The whole point of the exercise was for Bridgestone to show us why their tyres are the best and why the equivalent tyres from Michelin are shit.

But most of all, it gave us an opportunity to drive like twats, really fast, round a test circuit. Unfortunately, each of us journalists were only given four rounds on our own (I managed to sneak in six)

This is me driving a 2.4litre Honda Accord in anger.

The Bridgestone proving grounds in Thailand consists of an S-bend encapsulated by a couple of corners: a medium-sized wet one (to test wet-weather grip, of course) and a larger dry one on the outside (for high-speed cornering).

Wet handling testing

This track also has another section with two long straights - one for testing high-speed stability and another with varying surfaces for Bridgestone's test drivers to evaluate the performance of its tires in various simulated conditions.

All of our mucking about took place in the corners and S-bends.

I've learnt a couple of things from my short excursions:
    1. The Honda Accord is completely rubbish when it comes to handling (It's sprung like a mattress).
    2. The Honda Accord is also much more fun with shit tyres than good, grippy ones.

Allow me to explain. The Bridgestone Turanza GR-80 did provide a helluva lot more grip (especially in the wet) compared to the Michelin MXV8, which meant that the Accord understeered less (meaning, it actually had a tendancy to go in the general direction pointed to by the steering wheel - pretty good for a Honda!*). It's also much quieter than the French rubber - important for the tyre's target market of luxury cars.

However, the Michelins lack of initial grip meant that understeer and oversteer are both far more progressive, allowing you to get the hulking Accord into a drift of sorts, which is a surprisingly fun thing to do.

Michelins: No grip = more fun?

But of course, I'd probably get the Bridgestones instead - After all, I don't really want my car to go sideways while I'm popping over to 7-Eleven or something.

As fun as it was, it got really interesting when a Bridgestone driver decided to take all of us on a lap of the entire proving ground - in a Mercedes E220 CDI (that's a diesel model).

It sounded like a taxi but, my God, it's a helluva fantastic car to sit in, especially when some mild-mannered Japanese man is driving it round a bend at over 100km/h, WHILE DRIFTING.

And what's really great about our Japanese test driver's performance was the sheer control he had of the car, even as we were moving sideways on wet tarmac. It was like he does this sort of thing for a living.

Oh, wait...

That's him taking us round in the Accord before we all had a go. Shame I can't remember his name.

And there you have it - buy a set of Bridgestone Turanza GR-80 tyres today and you'll instantly become a drifting god.

    * I should probably mention that I particularly dislike the current generation of Honda Accords. My dad owns one, and I've driven it extensively, and I feel that it's the most over-engineered, souless car on the planet. It's boring. It's dull. It feels as if the steering wheel isn't really attached to anything. The only thing I like about it is that it's well put together.

    BTW, I've also nearly rendered myself unconscious in an Accord - by whamming my head on the A-pillar while climbing in. Hate the bloody car...


Emily said...

But the current accords look so luxurious~

Tan Kit Hoong said...

Looks like you're gonna get a call from Honda Malaysia one of these days :D