Nokian Tyres calls in former F1 driver Mika Häkkinen to test new tire

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With a design focus on high-speed performance, Nokian asked former F1 driver Mika Häkkinen to provide feedback on its latest summer tire to hit the market, the Powerproof

The new Nokian Powerproof summer tire is designed to give stable handling and smooth steering, ensuring peace of mind to drivers for both high-speed lane changes and sudden braking.

Aimed at the central European market, it features the company’s Dual Zone Safety concept, which ensures that the tire contact patch is always consistent. “Safety is at the core of our product development philosophy. The unique Dual Zone Safety concept ensures balanced road contact. The driver can feel how the tire grips, adapts to surface roughness and immediately reacts to steering especially on wet and dry roads, which is a requirement for safety during sudden evasions, for example,” said Jarno Röytiö, development manager at Nokian Tyres.

In the Dual Zone Safety concept, the Power Zone on the tire’s outer shoulder ensures precise handling. The firm tread blocks coupled with the slope groove design that can withstand high lateral forces by means of its sloped groove edges, deliver precise handling on dry asphalt, including at high speeds.

The Wet Safety Zone on the tire’s inside meanwhile, maximizes safety on wet roads by optimizing grip while preserving logical and stable handling. The trapezoidal flow grooves divide the center rib and the rib closest to the inner shoulder. This sweeping, winding design of the groove bottoms allows for effective aquaplaning prevention by storing water and accelerating the removal of water from between the tire and the road surface.

The combination of the inner shoulder’s tread blocks and grooves also supports agile aquaplaning resistance. The groove ends formed in the tread blocks have been spread out and their sides have a horn-like indentation. These swoop grooves further facilitate the removal of water. The wide and polished main grooves also enable effective storage of water, which improves safety in rainy weather.     

Three wide and sturdy main ribs dominate the tread of the summer tire. The shoulder area design of the Nokian Powerproof, delivering steering precision at high speeds, is full and sleek. The new sturdy and durable structure, developed especially for fast driving, is said to offer additional stability throughout the seasons.

Several rubber compounds have been applied in the tread. In the unique Dynamic Grip rubber compound, the functional molecule chains and polymers form a dense, flexible mesh-like structure that provides better grip and durability than in the previous tire generation. The multi-layered tread structure also reduces rolling resistance.

The hemispherical indentations, reminiscent of a golf ball pattern, on the walls of the longitudinal ribs enhance comfort. The Silent Groove design reduces interior and external tire noise. The bead area uses a new clinch rubber compound that improves comfort and fuel efficiency.

“The new tread pattern and structure allowed us to create a contact pattern for the tire that provides logical and predictable road feel and quick steering feedback in both rain and shine. The contact is steadier and more dynamic than before, which means excellent grip and even better durability on high-speed motorways and poorly maintained alpine routes alike,” Röytiö explained.

An unusual program

The development program for the tire took four years. Computer modeling and high-speed cameras were used extensively during the early phases. Field testing took place in Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Finland. The durability of the new product was fine-tuned on the basis of a tough test program conducted in hot temperatures in Spain. Test tracks in Germany and Spain were used to refine the tire’s characteristics for high-speed driving.

To evaluate the tire’s handling, Nokian called in former F1 driver, Mika Häkkinen. He said, “The new Nokian Powerproof gives me extremely fantastic steering feedback. That is exactly the feature you want in quality tires. When the tire gives you confidence in driving, it also gives you safety.”

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the ground-breaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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