By Sitho Nkabini
Arriving at the launch venue as part of the second group of media attending the launch, the sun was at its hottest, 35°the weatherman had confidently said but it felt more like 40°! I wondered how long we would have to drive the BMWs fitted with Potenza Sport tyres; after all, the type of tyre fitted to a car makes all the difference to safety and comfort levels.
Registration and COVID protocols dispensed with, I maneuvered towards the beverage area for a bottle of cold water. Once I was settled, I looked around for familiar faces which is not a lot of people as this was only my second launch. I was happy to recognize two associates who also admitted that they too were expecting “yet another one of those launches” (a statement accompanied with an eye roll).
We were soon ushered to the seating area as the event was to begin. Jacques Fourie, the CEO of Bridgestone and Thandeka Ngoma, Consumer Sales Director were the first two speakers who took us through the company’s journey and that it was celebrating its 90thanniversary since it was established in Japan in 1931. Moreover, it had been 50 years since Bridgestone launched its manufacturing plant in Brits, South Africa.
In developing and launching the Potenza Sport tyre, Bridgestone wanted to create a tyre that meets the high expectations drivers have when purchasing high-performance tyres. The tyre manufacturer also aimed to address the everyday challenges face – thus aligning to their new brand messaging launched in 2022 – “Solutions For Your Journey.”
Ary Coetzee, Bridgestone South Africa’s Technical Manager, took us through some of the various new, innovative technologies that have been implemented in the tread pattern, the blend of materials used to improve the wet and dry performance of the tyre as well as the actual construction of the tyre.
As expected, I confess that my mind did indeed start to drift when the presentation got to the technical part. I made a mental note to enquire what terms such as ‘hybrid crown reinforcement’ meant but I did grasp that it’s a technology that helps maximize a tyre’s stability performance at high speed. Of course I understood the words ‘high speed’ and I was itching to get behind the wheel of one of the Beemers.
Just as a smirk of excitement was forming on my lips, my mind caught up with Ary as he explained how “3D sipes in the tyre’s tread design increase stiffness, resulting in enhanced braking and abrasion resistance”. My mind was boggled as he further shared that Bridgestone has developed technology that enables the company to accurately predict a tyre performance while in the development stage – without physically producing it.
That sounded very interesting. Unfortunately, the Brits facility does not produce this high-performing tyre but it is available in South Africa in 96 sizes, ranging from 17” to 22″.
These tyres come standard in the following supercars; Maserati MC20, Lamborghini Huracán STO, Audi RS3, Ferrari F171, and the Porsche Macan. Between 2022 and 2023, the tyres will be extended to include BMW and in particular the 8 Series range. If you can afford any of these cars, please contact me so I can elaborate on the benefits of these tyres, (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
Finally, it was time to put all that talk to the test. It was time to drive; an activity I had been waiting for from the moment I accepted the invitation. Aziye!! (Let’s go).
In groups of 3’s and 4’s we jumped into the beautiful but beastly BMWs and in a convey we followed the instructors to the skidpan.
Equipped with a walkie-talkie in each car, the instructor took us through a series of braking, accelerating and emergency lane change do’s and don’ts before we each got an opportunity to tackle the different exercises. After each driver had a go, we finally got to the GYMKHANA!!!!
As I was adjusting my car seat, side mirror and steering wheel, (the entire car really), to suit my height and size, I noticed someone approaching the front passenger seat holding a camera. My heart sank. Here I was, about to be filmed. Note that I was the smallest person in the group, who had never before attempted to dodge cones on a piece of concrete (or anywhere else for that matter) was about to be filmed.
The unsuspecting cameraman asked if he could be my passenger specifically to record all the silly facial expressions I was about to make while attempting this drill. Sure, I said, wondering if he had any idea of just what he had just signed up for.
All set, I jumped onto the accelerator immediately the countdown was done and what happened next became a blur very quickly! I have been caught in a skid before but under immensely different circumstances.
Learning how to control your car when it starts to skid gave me a heightened sense of confidence which I hadn’t even been aware was missing! I can honestly say that asides from the fun, some of the technical jargon came to mind and I visualized exactly what the tyres were doing as I swerved left and right and jumped on the brakes as hard as I could.
There is no better joy you will experience in a Code B vehicle than burning someone else’s tyres whilst driving as fast as you can, trying to avoid hitting these little cones on a course while someone is timing you. I can’t remember having that much fun!
The more I manoeuvered the Beemer, the more I recalled notes from the presentation, particularly around the area performance.
During the braking exercises, I could feel the difference in stability between a dead brake in a car equipped with the Potenza tyres as compared to the tyres in my mother’s Toyota RAV4. Although she has brand new tyres on her car, there was much less skidding on the Potenza tyres and more grip in them. Also, you have better control when steering while speeding, especially when you have to brake instantly whilst changing lanes – I see you, Potenza, I see you!
After all the exercises had been done a couple of times – the instructors would have had to physically drag me off the gymkhana had it not been for the fact that my score no longer qualified me to continue with the exercise. We drove back up to the venue for some much-needed cold refreshments.
Suitably nourished, I found it much easier to mingle with Bridgestone staff and members of their support team. Of course, I had to inquire about who was responsible for ‘the Stig’ that had delivered my gift the previous Saturday morning. Not that I have anything against receiving gifts but the Stig arrived unannounced and if you anything about the ‘rituals’ of a Black woman at the weekend you know I was in house-cleaning mode and looked every bit the part!
I explained in detail how mortified I had been when seeing ‘the Stig dude’ jump out of his car and stride towards my floor. Stiggie arriving unannounced wasn’t as big a problem as that he also wanted to take a selfie and didn’t seem to mind that yours truly was wearing a dookie (headwrap), an oversized T-shit and unflattering ‘cleaning-the-house-in-pants’ caused my embarrassment.
It is extremely important that motorists not only ensure their tyres are properly maintained but that they purchase the correct and best-value-for-money tyres they can.
When you think about it, the only thing that separates the car from the surface of the road is 4 patches of rubber that are the size of the palm of your hand.