FIRST time round the car was okay. We had a slalom test, then hammered it down the back, shifted through a little chicane, accelerated and then slammed on the brakes.
Second time round we did the same. The same model. But this time with different tyres.
Now it can happen that you notice a difference between different sets of tyres.
In this case it was probably the most patently tangible evidence I've experienced. Of course it was in Goodyear's interest that should be the case. Of course the same principle applied earlier when we hammered an Audi TT RS with the latest Dunlop tyre around Mondello. I mean, they hardly had us there to show their tyres were inferior were they? In reality we were there to try out two tyres and join, in a small way, with marking Dunlop's 125th anniversary.
Hard to believe it was in 1888 that John Boyd Dunlop came up with the discovery of the pneumatic tyre in Belfast. A year later he set up a factory in Stephen Street, Dublin. Maybe not a lot of people know that.
Anyway, we belted around on tyres, in heavy rain, whose complexity even he could hardly have envisaged.
Dunlop's new BlueResponse has serious grip and flexibility – the sort that lets you do 100mph down the Mondello straight and hold you firm and true when you hammer on the brakes as the sharp corner screams into view. Dunlop also reckons the lower rolling resistance (30pc less) and other ancillary 'green' elements will save your average-mileage motorist €100 a year on fuel. That might catch people's attention. But the big eye opener was to come on a far less illustrious (wet and windy) little part of the circuit.
There they put us in a BMW Z4 with what they called budget tyres (not Goodyear's of course) and then in another Z4 with Eagle F1 Assymetric 2 (yes, from Goodyear).
The difference was striking. We all said the same. The car's traction control had struggled to keep me on course (good bit of counter steering there, Ed), on the budget tyres and my passengers had been mysteriously quiet during my stint at the wheel.
Then into the Goodyear what-you-may-callits and it was really chalk and cheese.
My stopping distance down the back straight was noticeably shorter. That is why and where tyres make their impact – in helping us keep our distance from death or injury. Sadly we pay little heed to them because so many people are, understandably, tempted more by price than prowess. Maybe next time you're changing tyres you might think twice.
Don't mean to be dramatic or cliched, but what price can you put on something that will keep you on the road in an emergency or stop you metres from impact – as opposed to something that won't?