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Behind the Scenes at a Tire Launch

What Really Goes on at a Media Event

Behind the Scenes at a Tire Launch
Posted April 28 2011 08:37 AM by Brandan 
Filed under: Editorials, Past Events, Ford

Johnny Unser and Brandan Gillolgy Cooper Tire Mustang GT Drifting

In Issue 8 I gave you the heads up on a new tire from Cooper that I got to test at their facility in Pearsall, Texas. Have you ever wondered what exactly goes on at a media event?

When you’ve got a bunch of journalists sitting around waiting to test the wet pavement performance of a light truck tire in a timed autocross event, there’s gonna be some trash-talking, naturally. I of course felt obligated to bring home a decent time since I was representing the only truck magazine that focused on any sort of performance other than in the dirt. The guys at Cooper were keeping the times under wraps, so here was also some spying going on to see how everyone else was doing so we’d know the time to beat.

However, if you’re Cooper Tires, you don’t want journalists, who are known to be a whiny, egotistical lot, to stand around and get sunburned. It’s just not a good idea to have someone writing about your product when the skin is still peeling from their forehead. So, rather than let us bake, we each got to take a turn in the air-conditioned cabin of a Mustang GT piloted by five-time Indy 500 driver Johnny Unser. Aha, now that’s more like it. They even had a helmet to fit my massive head.

I can’t tell you what kind of Cooper tires the Mustang was wearing, but I do remember thinking that I would never look as calm behind the wheel as Johnny did as he piloted the Mustang through a hot lap at Cooper’s test track. He wasn’t pushing the limits of the car or the track, but it definitely felt fast, and his movements were precise. Two chicanes flew by with just a few quick inputs to the steering wheel and then we were into the hairpin. I was grinning from ear to ear as Johnny easily ate up the sweeping curves, using the entire width of the track. A final, sharp right turn led into a 400-ft diameter skidpad that had been marked into a figure eight with autocross cones, my nemesis. I had no idea what to expect, but this was old hat for Mr. Unser. He throttled the Mustang into a drift that had us sideways in an instant. As I looked out my window at the cones marking the apex of the turn we were fast approaching, sideways,  I could practically see myself getting out to pry them from the GT’s undercarriage. That’s standard operating procedure when I’m behind the wheel, and yes, it really does hurt lap times. I just couldn’t imagine the physics necessary to get the car around the curve, yet with just a calculated shuffle of the wheel and some mysterious throttle application, Johnny pivoted the car around the curve like a sidewinder. After a few more figure eight laps Johnny really got the car loose and spun us out in the center of the track with a big smile on his face, finally proving that he is human.

Or, maybe that last part was just to feed the Ego of the journalist that was sitting shotgun, the one with the big head that only managed to come in fourth on the wet autocross.

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