It’s all in the feel

Even the best instruments cannot tell you what a tire feels like to drive.

Each year, Nokian Tyres’ test drivers cover hundreds of thousands of miles, feeling, sensing, and evaluating. Once the vehicle has become part of the body, the tire tester knows what a tire feels like. In addition to Finland, we perform tire testing worldwide, on different road surfaces and in quickly changing weather. The world's best test drivers, a wide scope of testing activities, and versatile testing equipment ensure that the tires work in the best possible way under varying conditions – and even in extreme situations.

Test drivers have a major role in tire testing. They are trained for the job, but the know-how and feel can only be obtained by doing.

- You can feel the behaviour of a tire in your hands and gut. The way the car controls, how quickly the tire stabilises after skidding and how it behaves during braking, acceleration, slalom and steep up- and downhills, says Petri Paananen, Test Driver at Nokian Tyres.

Test drivers report the test drive results and identify the tires’ good properties and areas for improvement. The end result of testing comprises subjective opinions and objective test data. This information is then used for further development in order to create the most important safety feature of a car – the best possible tire. 

-  A poor tire will always have something that does not pass our comprehensive test palette.

"A poor tyre will always have something that does not pass our comprehensive test palette."
Petri Paananen, Nokian Tyres plc, Test Driver

So, what are the requirements for good test drivers in addition to their analysis skills? At least strong nerves and the ability to test the products with an open mind as well as the right combination of humility and ambition. And you need to go easy on the throttle.

- Tire testing is not a rally race. It is not about the speed but rather feeling and analysing the tire. Of course, you will drive fast occasionally but the focus is always on the tire and its performance, Paananen explains.

Paananen is a calm and proactive driver also outside the test track.

- I pay close attention to others on the road to see what they are doing. It seems that I sometimes get carried away with analysing things and then hear about my backseat driving later at home, Paananen laughs.