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November 2015

Winter Driving Experience

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A Toyota Camry fitted with all-season OE tires (right) competes against a Camry with Blizzak WS80 tires.

The squeal of tires braking on ice reverberated throughout the University of Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena as trade media test drove vehicles fitted with Bridgestone’s Blizzak DM-V2 and Blizzak WS80 winter tires.

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In preparation for winter, Bridgestone Americas and Tire Rack teamed up to present the Winter Driving Experience in South Bend, Ind., Sept. 29- Oct. 1, to talk winter tires and the evolution of the Blizzak line.

Engineering the Winter Tire

“Winter is very beautiful when it comes, but certainly is very, very intimidating when you deal with the roads and the drive. Whether it’s the commute to work or taking the children to school, or just sporting events, the roads can be very treacherous and very, very challenging for us. So we need to make sure we are prepared,” said Matt Edmonds, vice president of Tire Rack.

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Even before the snow hits the ground, it’s not too early to think about putting on winter tires when the weather gets colder, he said.

Woody Rogers, product information specialist for Tire Rack, added that once the temperature drops to about 40˚F and you can see your breathe outside – around Thanksgiving Day in many northern states – it’s time to switch to winter tires.

Participants test the Blizzak WS80 tires’ braking performance in the ice arena to simulate winter driving.

Participants test the Blizzak WS80 tires’ braking performance in the ice arena to simulate winter driving.

Bridgestone launched the Blizzak DM-V2 in July 2015 as its newest winter tire for CUVs, SUVs and pickup trucks.

The Blizzak WS80 for sedans, coupes and minivans launched in 2014, featuring the tiremaker’s newest winter tire technology, as a replacement for Bridgestone’s popular Blizzak WS70.

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“Winter is not a condition. It is a season with a variety of conditions,” said Tire Rack’s Rogers.

Ice, heavy snow, patchy snow and packed snow are all conditions of winter, and Bridgestone’s winter tire performance in these conditions depends on three key areas: tread depth, tread pattern and tread compound, Rogers said.

The new generation of Blizzak tires includes a large shoulder block for precision cornering and handling, according to Bridgestone, and the tread design features a Multi-Z pattern to improve snow and ice traction by improving drainage and increasing the biting edges.

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Bridgestone Winter Driving School instructor and professional driver Lea Croteau, said she has seen winter tires improve over the years, especially with Blizzak from its original, almost spongy tread compound.

That tread compound remains the biggest evolution of the Blizzak line. The DM-V2 and WS80 both feature a next-generation multi-cell compound that disperses water from the contact patch for grip on slippery surfaces, said Justin Hayes, product manager for Bridgestone Americas.

This compound is hydrophilically augmented (it is attracted to water), allowing the compound to remove water from the surface of the ice for better grip, Hayes added.

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At the Ice Rink

“Tires really are the footwear of your vehicle. So putting winter tires on the car is really the same thing as putting boots on your feet,” said Edmonds.

Tires are the basis of how a vehicle grips the surface, no matter the season.

“A lot of people blame the car for bad winter performance, not the tread of their tires,” Croteau said.

Bridgestone Winter Driving School instructor Morgan Kavanaugh noted that tires are the top safety feature of a vehicle.

To put the Blizzak tires’ performance to the test, trade media drove a Toyota Camry with OE tires against a Camry fitted with the WS80 tires in an exercise where participants floored the vehicle and performed a hard braking stop to test the tires’ traction.

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In another exercise, participants drove a Toyota RAV4 with OE tires against the same vehicle fitted with Blizzak DM-V2 tires and rode along in a cornering exercise. The same stop and go exercise was also performed in the SUVs.

Off the Rack

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Tire Rack prepares for winter tire sales and testing at its warehouse in South Bend, Ind.

Trade media also had the opportunity to visit Tire Rack’s corporate headquarters and distribution center in South Bend. At the 680,000-square-foot facility, employees were busy stacking tires on pallets and lifting tires onto racks up to five levels tall at the warehouse.

Edmonds said the warehouse holds about a million tires, and the number has actually shrunk with tires increasing in size.

Staying ahead of the winter weather, Tire Rack has already started preparing winter tires shipments. Winter tire/wheel packages are a popular seller as people prepare for winter, Edmonds said.

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Stacks of tires, including the new Blizzaks, were also being readied in the Tire Rack warehouse to ship to Sweden for testing in a variety of intense winter conditions.

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