Pirelli have a long prestigious history of producing high performance tyres and the new Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue is no exception. The very first of the ‘P range’ was the famous Pirelli P-ZERO, born in 1987 and designed for the classic Ferrari F40 and celebrating its 25th birthday.

Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue

Pirelli have continuously innovated and developed in this time, being the default tyre for many of the world’s most prestigious car manufacturers. The P-ZERO was the first road car tyre to be derived from competition and this is just as relevant today with Pirelli being the sole tyre provider for Formula One. A key element of Formula One tyre development is the use of simulators, this is beginning to transfer into road tyre development and has huge advantages in allowing Pirelli to have a great idea how a tyre will perform without even making a prototype.

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Anyway, back to the new Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue Review. We headed over to Valencia for the launch, the tyre is a direct progression from the Cinturato P7, a world first ecological high performance tyre. The P7 Blue has all the characteristics of the P7 but has been improved in two key areas: safety and economy. There is a new EU Tyre Label which will be mandatory for all new tyres by November this year and the Cinturato P7 Blue is the first tyre to be rated AA, scoring the top rating for both safety and economy. Safety is rated by wet braking distance and the P7 blue can stop up to 2.7 metres shorter than a B rated tyre at the same speed. Economy is rated on rolling resistance, with the P7 blue sporting a 23% reduction when compared to a C rated tyre, this all results in fuel saving and could bag you around £90 a year towards your next tyres and equates to a tank of fuel per year for me! Though this obviously this all depends on mileage and the type of driving you do.
You can find more about the EU Tyre Label here.

We managed to get some track and road time with the new tyres, with Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue’s all round (expect for a few on the P-ZERO’s) on:

Wet track/Road tour

  • Alfa Romeo Giulietta
  • Audi A4
  • Audi A5
  • Mercedes E-Cabrio
  • Volvo V60
  • BMW 320d
  • Mercedes SLK
  • Audi S5 Sportback

Dry track

  • McLaren MP4-12C
  • Lamborghini Aventador
  • Lamborghini Superleggera / Supertrofeo Stradale
  • Porsche 911 S

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Dry Track
The track in question was the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia.

Our group was first up with the dry track session; all driving would be done accompanied by a professional driver except for the Aventador in which you followed a pace car. Ex Formula One driver and current Pirelli test driver Lucas Di Grassi was even on hand to answer questions and take a few lucky people out.

The first car I was set to drive was the McLaren MP4-12C equipped with a set of Pirelli P-ZERO tyres. Having not done much supercar driving before I couldn’t really tell if the experience was all car, all tyres or a mixture of the two but what I can say is that it stuck to the track unbelievably well. I wasn’t really in a position to push it too far as I definitely didn’t want to be the first driver to claim on the insurance. Having the first time driving a left hand drive car being a supercar also didn’t help my confidence! Acceleration down the main straight was phenomenal and one of the only places I felt comfortable enough having my foot firmly planted on the floor.

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Next up was the Porsche and I was feeling a little more comfortable by this stage and definitely pushed it a little further than the McLaren. It was so much fun and despite scaring the crap out of the Pirelli driver on one corner the car helped me out superbly and brought everything back in line rather than sending me off the track and trudging back to the pits embarrassed.

Unfortunately with limited time and limited number of Lamborghini’s the queue to have a go was quite large and the time ran out, this was my one regret of the whole weekend that I didn’t push harder to get in one but I did manage to do something which I probably enjoyed more; taken round the track for a hot lap in a McLaren. The driver was Phil Quaife, a McLaren test and professional racing driver and he must have been in a rush because we flew out of the pits quicker than I went on the track. If there was any doubt that the McLaren only stuck to the road because I didn’t push it, this was totally eradicated as Phil drove the wheels off that car and it still handled superbly. I will admit that I didn’t feel quite right for the rest of the day after that lap but it was definitely worth it.

Wet Track
The dry track running was mainly for our enjoyment and to celebrate the 25 years of the P-ZERO, the wet track was where the Cinturato P7 Blue was introduced so we could have a feel for the wet handling and improved wet breaking distances that the P7 Blue boasts. I did most of my running in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta equipped with the P7 Blue tyres and I have to say I was extremely impressed with how it handled in the wet. Granted I was trying to change gear most of the time with the door handle (left hand drive again) but the breaking in a straight line was completely controlled and quick, there was no aquaplaning to speak of in the limited time I had on the track. I didn’t even catch sight of another car in my mirrors the whole time on track so I couldn’t have been driving round that slowly. The Mercedes SLK equipped with the P-ZERO tyres was described to me by one journalist as lethal and I saw many a spin but knowing how a CLS handles in the wet, I have no doubt that the Pirelli tyres had anything to do with it.

pirelli-cinturato-p7-blue-in-the-wet

While you weren’t on track there was an option to sit in a Pirelli Formula One style car and drive round in a simulator, this was tricky to say the least as you have so little visibility being that low and a track I didn’t know made it pretty impossible to put in a decent time. I managed to hit the wall a couple of times but at least I didn’t manage to flip it and land on my head like another driver.

Simulator
The third session of the day was in the garage and comprised of a simulator loaded up with a modern day Lamborghini and Pirelli tyres which could be switched to an older model for comparison and a test set up to show heat mapping for tyres in motion. The heat mapping was used to look at rolling resistance and while I didn’t really understand to a great extent what I was looking at, it was impressive and the Pirelli people were certainly very knowledgeable and passionate about its use in tyre development. It was a very weird experience being in the simulator and I felt a little that it often moved just because It could rather than actually representing reality, the best example of this was a lot of wobbling when going down a straight which I’m sure just doesn’t happen. The idea of comparing a new Lamborghini and new tyres with a car and tyres from the 80s didn’t really work out because our lack of skill shone through and no-one could keep the newer simulation on the track for more than 20 seconds. As we couldn’t manage that, trying out the older simulation which was meant to be harder didn’t seem like it would be very fruitful so lunch prevailed.

Road test
The idea of the road test was to get the feel of the Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue Tyres in normal conditions, check out the noise reduction and security aspects of the tyres. With a host of cars all lined up, everyone tried to jump in the car of their choice and shoot off, this wasn’t really fair to the people who wanted seconds at lunch so Pirelli had a sophisticated system set up to handle this; yes we picked ping pong balls with numbers on out of a bag! The number related to a number on the windscreen of each car and I picked 19, a Mercedes E class cabriolet. With the sun beating down and it being a beautiful day, this was the car I (and most others) wanted so we could cruise around with the top down. Pirelli had planned a roughly 200K route which took us on motorways and some great twisty mountainous type roads to see the tyres in different settings.

There was a stop scheduled for drinks half way and we split the driving with me taking the return journey. One thing I took away from the road test (apart from a truckers tan on my arm) was that the roads in and around Valencia were fantastic, all looked and felt pristine and that led to a very comfortable and smooth journey in some absolutely stunning scenery. At the pit stop, a few of the guys were saying that the E class was really sluggish and after getting to the wheel I have to agree. I turned Eco off and put it into sport mode but it just had no oomph! With this in mind (and forgetting I was sitting on the left and almost putting my off side in a ditch) I took the car for what it was; a beautiful car for a Sunday afternoon cruise in the sun. This was only a 2 litre entry model and I’m sure the bigger engines do give it that extra edge but this particular configuration was definitely made for the 60+ market. Back to the tyres and they certainly complimented the car with the emphasis on economy and fuel saving, everything felt smooth and there was limited noise so all in all a great success. The car certainly stuck to the road but we weren’t travelling at any great speed through the bends.

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Conclusion
I have nothing but praise for the tyres and I am no expert but with the numbers being produced and that first AA rating, I think Pirelli are onto a real winner with the Cinturato P7 Blue. It’s specifically designed for aftermarket use and I think it will be on everyone’s radar when choosing new tyres for their mid-large engine cars. We are still waiting on final prices, but we aren’t expecting anything too astronomical.

Of course, whilst in Valencia, we had to check out the F1 and for my views on the European Grand Prix you can read my piece earlier in the week here.

It was an absolutely fantastic weekend laid on by Pirelli and one I will never forget, everything flowed extremely smoothly, every detail was planned, organised and executed to perfection. If I had a huge event to organise I would certainly be knocking on Pirelli’s door to see if they fancied moving into the event planning business! Don’t forget we have been forced to join Google+ by the search engine giant.


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