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Pace of Change

Michelin North America has declared 2004 to be the "Year of Performance," so there couldn’t have been a better way to start its ultra-high performance push than to give trade and enthusiast journalists a taste of real performance ®€“ on the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain

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Michelin North America has declared 2004 to be the "Year of Performance," so there couldn’t have been a better way to start its ultra-high performance push than to give trade and enthusiast journalists a taste of real performance ®“ on the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain.

The picturesque F1 track was the site for the formal rollout of the Y-rated Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, a summer tire now available to North American dealers in 33 different 17- through 22-inch sizes. Another 27 sizes will be added by the end of this year. Also slated for 2004 launches are the Pilot Exalto PE2 and Pilot XGT Z4, available in June, and the Pilot Alpin PA2, coming in August.

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Already OE on cars like the Porsche Carrera GT, the Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR, the BMW Alpina Z8, Chrysler Crossfire, and Audi TT, the Pilot Sport PS2 replaces the previous generation line with improved wet/dry traction, a larger contact patch, dual tread compounding, and sidewall technology that improves handling while maintaining contact patch area in hard cornering.

The Pilot Sport PS2 features a four-groove, asymmetrical tread design for stability, water evacuation and reduced noise; a dual tread compound and design for wet/dry traction; high-tensile steel belts and an Aramid/nylon hybrid cap for durability and handling; and Michelin’s "variable contact patch" sidewall technology to maximize road contact.

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At the two-day launch and driving event, North American journalists put the Pilot Sport PS2 through its paces at the Catalunya course, which was divided for wet and dry road testing against competitive tires. Chrysler Crossfires and BMW M3s were raced around the dry course, which covered about two-thirds of the 2.5-mile track. Matching Audi TTs ran around the wet test area.

The second day proved humbling for the media, many of whom had raced in the past or have performance driving experience. Michelin treated the media to its Michelin Driving Experience (MDE), allowing the visitors to drive real Formula 3, Porsche GT3 and Formula 1 race cars, or ride in a specially prepared two-seat F1 car around the entire Catalunya course.

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The MDE travels across Europe ®“ it has not appeared in North America ®“ immersing select guests (tire dealers, journalists and VIPs) in the F1 racing culture. Fitted in a full driving suit, attendees try their hand at a F1 tire change, participate in a racing trivia game and enjoy hot laps in the various race cars.

Those a bit too large to fit into an F1 race car for a solo drive were escorted around the circuit, at race speed, in a two-seat F1 car piloted by one of Michelin’s test drivers.

A multi-truck caravan hauls the MDE to some 50 events across Europe, toting along four F1 cars, the modified F1 racer, a fleet of BMW M3s (used for course control), six Porsche GT3s, support equipment, parts and tires and a catering operation, complete with a kitchen, chef, tables and set-ups.

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Michelin North America plans to hold a consumer contest this year, in which lucky winners will receive all-expense paid trips to Europe to participate in the MDE.

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