Cooper Tire Ride ‘N Drive Event Day One: The Zeon RS3-S and RS3-A
Last Friday afternoon I was invited to the Cooper Tires Ride ‘N Drive. The plan was to fly out on Monday, spend two days at the test track, and the return on Thursday. After a mechanical delay in Atlanta, Georgia I arrived in San Antonio, Texas. On Tuesday morning we were driven to Pearsall, Texas, home of the Cooper Tires Tire & Vehicle Test Track. The test track offers a slalom oval; dry handling circuit; wet vehicle dynamics area; and an off-road circuit. The test track staff gave us a warm Texas welcome and herded us into a large conference area. Here we were given a brief introduction to the Cooper Tires line of new Zeon tires.
We then headed to the wet track to drive Chevrolet Corvettes through a preset course. The first three laps around the course we drove a competitors tire. We then switched to a second Corvette fitted with Cooper Zeon RS3-S. The Zeon RS-S is Cooper’s latest high performance tire and the differences between it and the competitor’s tire were stark. The competitor’s tire slid and did not instill much confidence in me as I circled the track. Behind the Corvette equipped with the Zeon RS-S tires I felt more in control. I drove deeper into the corners and was able to circle the track at a quicker pace.
While waiting for the others to complete their laps Johnny Unser and Ali Aljibouri took us on hot laps around the dry circuit. As we circled the track one hand was pinned to the door and my feet pressed into the floorboard as we whipped around corners, screamed down the straight away, and burned figure eights. It was amazing to see what the tires could do under the control of a trained professional. It was also impressive to see both Unser and Aljibouri could have casual conversations as they whipped around the course at an impressive rate of speed.
Following a delicious lunch of BBQ brisket it was back to the wet track. This time we were testing of the Cooper Zeon RS3-A all-weather tire. The results were similar to the morning session. The competitors tire was squirrelly while the Zeon RS-A felt solid and attached to the pavement. The highlight of the first afternoon session was a timed team relay. I was thrilled I was able to drive my lap without taking out any of the cones, and in the end our team was victorious!
The second afternoon session saw us move to the dry circuit track. As the Texas sun beat down and numerous Gatorades were consumed we moved through the group. Soon it was my turn to get behind the wheel. I took the first lap very tentatively. With each lap I sped up and by the last one in the Cooper Zeon RS3-S I was cooking. They stuck to the pavement like an armadillo flattened by an 18-wheeler. Driving into one of the final turns I braked a little late. The back end kicked out and I almost lost the ‘Vette in the dirt, but thankfully the tires bit back into the track and kept it from spinning out.
What I took away from the day’s testing was Cooper’s Zeon RS3-S and RS3-A tires handled wet conditions better than their competitors. As a father of two who lives in North Florida where heavy rains are a normal occurrence, knowing your vehicle is equipped with a tire that maintains traction in dangerous conditions offers peace of mind. It also felt good knowing an American company invested in the research, engineering, and testing to make a product that guys like me can trust with our most precious asset, our families.