Michelin Pilot Power 2CT vs Pilot Power 3

2CT-front-usedI’ve been running a set of Michelin Power Pilot 2CT’s on my track Daytona 675 for the past year. In that time I have done 15 track days in all weathers from cold wet to super hot and these tyres have never missed a beat. I’ve done nearly 2,000 miles (3,200 km) on them and as you can see from this shot of the front taken after first session of my 15th track day on them, they still have quite a lot of rubber left on them.

I’ve found the 2CTs to be brilliant in the dry in temperatures ranging from 12C – 35C (53F – 95F). Some users report that the tyres grip, grip and grip and then break away suddenly. I’ve personally never found this to by the case but this could be helped by a combination of the following:

  1. I always warm the tyres up for one to two laps depending on the track and temperatures
  2. The Daytona 675 only puts out about 112 horsepower at the back wheel so the rear isn’t be likely to be suddenly overloaded by 150+ horsepower of a litre sports bike
  3. my riding style is pretty conservative and I’m not overly aggressive on the tyres in corners and out of them

Despite the above, I have occasionally been quite aggressive on the front tyre under braking and I’ve never had the slightest scare from the front end. In fact I can sometimes hear the front tyre “howl” when turning in for a corner. In short the 2CT is an amazing track day tyre. If you’re the kind of rider that is likely to encounter both damp and dry conditions and is starting out on track days as I was last year, then I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for money and competent tyre than the 2CT; a pair of which will set you back around ¬£185 (US$ 300) in the UK.

Because I’m off to Spain next week for four days on track at Cartagena, I decided that I would fit some new tyres before I went out because I didn’t think my existing 2CTs would last 4 days on such an abrasive track. Since there’s always a strong chance of rain in October and November, I wanted a track tyre that would offer me good handling in both dry and wet conditions. I initially looked at the Michelin Power Supersport, but I figured that as good as this would be in the dry it wouldn’t be much fun in the wet. That left me one choice in the Michelin range, and that was the new Pilot Power 3.

Coming up with a better all round road/track tyre than the 2CT must have been a hard task for Michelin. The result of that effort is the Michelin Pilot Power 3 which essentially replaces the Pure. Don’t confuse this new tyre with the road going Pilot Road 3 which is not designed for track use (although some riders do). I have some¬†Pilot Road 3s fitted to a Street Triple and they are without a doubt the best wet weather tyre I have ever ridden on. They inspire huge confidence and provide amazing grip levels in either the wet or the dry.

tyresWhen the Pilot Power 3 launched, Michelin recommended it as a 50:50% road:track tyre. That message has recently changed because the tyres are now recommended as 85:15% road:track use instead. All the rider reports that I’ve read for the tyre rate it as a better tyre than the 2CT in all areas but especially in the wet. However I did read one user test report from a track day rider who complained that the tyre became “greasy” under hot and hard track riding conditions and that they thought that the 2CT was still the better track tyre of the two.

PP3-2CT-comparisonTechnically there are quite a few differences between the two tyres even though both use a dual compound. Visually you can see that the 2CT has fewer grooves cut into the tyre but that the grooves run to the edge of the tyre. The Pilot Power 3 has more grooves for better water dispersal but these grooves don’t reach the shoulder of the tyre. The design of the new tyre makes a lot of sense for wet weather. In the rain, you typically keep the bike upright – even in corners you’ll be trying to limit your lean angle. The extra grooves should dispel water from under the tyre more effectively than the 2CT.

My only real concern with those extra grooves is that there could be less contact patch at lean angles less the 40 degrees which might mean less confidence as you’re rolling into the turn or getting the gas on rolling out of the turn. Beyond 40 degree lean angles, the tyres will be running on the slick section near the edge which also has the softer shoulder compound (compared to the middle).

2CT-plusOne aspect of the Pilot Power 3 which is different to the 2CT is the new 2CT+ technology which extends the harder middle section under the softer shoulders (on the rear tyre). This should give more stability and reduce any “squirm” when accelerating out of corners despite the lighter weight and more flexible nature of this new tyre.

PP3 RubberAccording to Michelin, the Power Pilot 3 lapped 4 seconds a lap faster in the dry and 4.5 seconds a lap quicker in the wet compared to the older 2CT tyres (presumably on their test track). I’m not sure what percentage lap time improvement that is because Michelin don’t quote the absolute original or new lap times. If you assume a 100 second lap time, then a four second reduction in lap time equates to a 4% improvement which is pretty significant.

For the first day at Cartagena with mid-afternoon air temperatures around 26C (79F), I started with tyre pressures of 31 psi front and 30 psi rear. Because I spent the first day learning the track, my pace was pretty sedate (more so than normal!) and I wasn’t really giving the tyres a hard time. As you can see from the photos below, these pressures were probably a little too high as the tyre appears to be showing some tearing.

Day1-PP3-Front
Day1-PP3-Rear

Day2-PP3-RearFor day 2, with similar air and track temperatures to day 1, I reduced the tyre pressures down to 30 front and 29 rear. I haven’t included a picture of the front as it looks pretty similar to the previous day.

You can see how the rear tyre is now showing a lot less tearing despite the fact that I was now running (slightly) faster lap times than the previous day and a greater lean angle. The tyre shows a much nicer wear pattern with that slight “rippled” surface running from the center of the tyre towards the point at which the rubber compound changes.

Day3-PP3-Rear-AllFor day 3 with air temperatures of around 27C (80F), I reduced the tyre pressures down to 28 psi on the front and 27 psi for the rear. These pressures were recommended by the tyre services guy that was onsite at the track.

Although I was slightly dubious about these lower pressures, it turned out that they were fine and the tyres performed really well on track, and the rubber looked better for it at the end of the day.

Just as a point of reference, other (fast group) riders running Metzeler Racetecs were using tyre pressures around 22-24 psi for the rear and 24-27 psi on the front.

Day3-PP3-Rear
Day3-PP3-Front

Before I ventured out on track the first day, I was worried that these new Power Pilot 3s would be too road orientated and wouldn’t really be a good track tyre. However, by the second day, I really started to trust them and used increasingly greater lean angles. Despite the hot conditions, and super abrasive track surface they performed superbly. They never once squirmed, twitched or felt greasy despite the high air and track temperatures. In fact it felt like I was going around the track on rails; even when I inadvertently applied the throttle or brakes too suddenly mid-corner.

In those four days at Cartagena, I estimate that I rode over 400 miles with plenty of heat cycles (up to 7 per day) as I was not using tyre warmers. After all that abuse, these tyres still look in amazing condition with plenty of tread and rubber left on them. The grippier tyre shoulders do exactly what they claim, and the neither the front nor rear tyre ever gave me any heart stopping moments.

The real question is whether I would buy the Power Pilot 3s again, and whether I would buy them over the 2CTs which are around 20-30% cheaper. The answer is a definite “yes”. I think all Michelin’s claims for the new Power Pilot 3s are true, and that they really have produced a brilliant supersport road tyre that is also perfect for track day use.

Update: May 2014

pp3-rear-10daysI’ve now used these tyres on 10 track days; eight in Spain and two in the UK at Silverstone. The tyres have now done approximately 1,000 miles. 800 miles of those miles have been ridden on the abrasive Cartagena track and the remaining 200 miles have been ridden on the faster Silverstone circuit. I’ve now also run the tyres with and without tyre warmers and I’m still really impressed with them.

pp3-front-10dayYou can see from these two photos that they still have lots of tread left, and despite many repeated heat cycles, they still feel as good now as they did when I first fitted them last year. I’ve now used them in hot and cold dry conditions but I’ve yet to ride them on track in the rain. When I do, I’ll report back again.

Update: October 2014

I recently switched to a set of Pirelli Rosso Corsas and you can read my comparison review of the Michelin Power Pilot 3 vs the Pirelli Rosso Corsa.

Silverstone Int’l 3 Oct 2013

HangarStraightA week before this track day I got a call from Jo (the track day organiser) at Silverstone asking whether I would mind moving from the Inters to a new combined Novice/Inters group because the fast group was being replaced by an event for Bennetts (the insurers) with Scott Redding while the Inters group was being replaced by a women’s only group.

I mentioned my concern that some of the faster Inters could be riding at a radically faster speed than first time novice but Jo was well aware of this and reassured me by indicating that there would be fewer riders on track and that the briefing would emphasise the need to look out for slower and less experienced riders on track. I was given the option of taking a credit against a future trackday next year or attending this one – I chose to attend as this was going to be my last Silverstone date for 2013.

I arrived at Silverstone at 7:15 to find the circuit shrouded in mist with poor visibility. There was enough moisture in the air that the track seemed to be damp too – these were less than ideal track conditions. Still it could have been worse as the weather forecast predicted rain showers during the day. Since our group was the first out at 9am, I was hoping for four dry-ish sessions before lunch when the heavens were predicted to open.

ladies

The women’s only group was an usual feature for a track day and it was hosted by Maria Costello. There was a full compliment of riders on all kinds of bike from smaller twins to large litre plus bikes. I ended up talking to a few of them and they all seemed a keen and friendly bunch (and why shouldn’t they be?). My feeling is many of these women wouldn’t have ridden in the usual predominantly male track day group, so providing a female only group specifically for them was a way of making track days more accessible. Hopefully some of them will continue to do more track days because my feeling is that more women on track would be to everyone’s benefit.

The instructors for our group included Neil Richardson who I had ridden with for two sessions on the GP circuit back in May. I was amazed that he remembered me at all as I was signing on and as we chatted he offered to ride with me in session 2. Neil was an accomplished 250cc racer in his day – even beating Joey Dunlop in one of the North West 200 races! I really enjoyed riding with him last time out and was looking forward to repeating the experience on the shorter International circuit.

The first session comprised three sighting laps followed by a return to the pits before rejoining the track for the remainder of the session. Although I had been slightly ambivalent about being on a race track at the start of the day, I found that by the end of that first session I was totally hooked again!

In the second session I followed Neil out on the track. My goal was to remain as close behind him as possible as he gradually upped the pace each lap pulling me along behind him. Despite the fact that the track conditions were less than ideal with damp patches here and there, I still managed to lap at 1:33 following him – an almost identical lap time to the one I achieved following Simon Crafar (of MotoVudo fame) the month before on the same circuit but in warmer and brighter conditions.

In the third session, I tried putting what I had learned from Neil into practice on my own. After arriving back in the pits at the end of the session, I was really pleased to find that I was only about a second slower compared to my best lap time following him. Riding following an instructor is definitely easier than riding around the track on your own where you have to make all kinds of decisions like when to brake, when to turn in, what line to take round the corner and when to get back on the power. My only hairy moment that session came when I was nearly rammed from behind going into the Vale chicane – you can see this in the short clip below.

Luckily no-one got hurt and the Yamaha rider even managed to keep his bike upright despite the deep gravel that he plowed into, which was pretty impressive.

As I become more familiar with Silverstone I’m finding that many of these riding decisions are becoming more automatic. The other thing which is improving (I think) is my body position through corners – I definitely feel more relaxed and almost as though I’m hanging off the bike like a monkey in left handers. Things aren’t quite so good on right handers where I can still feel a lot of tension in my back and neck so this is an area that I’m going to have to keep working on in the future.

I’m also starting to notice how much more difficult it is to get past slightly slower riders on bigger bikes now. This is due to the fact that I’m riding more quickly and the difference between my riding and many of the other riders in my group is less than it was in the past. Those riders that I can catch going into a corner, I often struggle to pass on the exit as they use their bike’s greater power to blast away from the corner. It’s starting to dawn on me that the only way to get past bigger bikes is to either outbreak them into the corner and/or carry more speed through the corner and ride around them where possible. Even though I could outdrag a bigger capacity bike down the straight in the novice group, it is almost impossible to do the same in the inters group with faster and more experienced riders.

During the fourth session, the rain that was forecast arrived and the track gradually became wetter as the session wore on. In fact the rain continued over lunch and lasted for both of my afternoon sessions. The rain almost meant that I abandoned the day at lunchtime, but after talking with a couple of the instructors, I was persuaded to venture out anyway. They reminded me of the fact that riding in the rain teaches you many things… especially smoothness.

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - Didn’t time this session
2 10 1:33.34 Riding following Neil, the instructor youtube
3 8 1:34.00 youtube
4 6 1:41.62 Damp track youtube
5 10 2:02.76 Heavy rain
6 7 1:58.16 Rain youtube

Riding in the rain was actually a lot more fun than I remembered the last I tried it at Snetterton. Adding a couple of psi to the tyres helped them cut through the water more and massively improved their feel out on track especially in the corners. What’s amazing is how hard you can both accelerate and brake provided that the bike is kept upright or nearly so. Hanging off the bike really comes into its own in the wet as it allows you to carry a faster corner speed for less lean angle. Following the instructors on track I also noticed how much more they widened the corners in order to minimise their mid corner lean angles. By the end of the last session, I was enjoying myself so much that I had gained sufficient confidence to chop another 4.5 seconds off my lap time compared to the previous session!

I thoroughly enjoyed this track day. I was riding with a good friend and it was fun seeing how much they were enjoying themself too. Silverstone really is a sublime track day venue. While I love the GP track, the smaller International circuit layout is perfect for allowing you to practice the same corners over and over. It has a perfect mix of fast sweeping corners, tight turns and the wonderfully fast Hangar Straight. The organisation at Silverstone is getting better and better, and they really go the extra mile in providing free tea and coffee, lunch vouchers and most importantly free instruction (without the time pressures that paid slots create). Combine that with the fact that the Silverstone instructors are a friendly and approachable bunch who are available throughout the day and you would be hard pushed to find a more enjoyable and better value for money track day anywhere in the UK.

I plan on booking up quite a few events at Silverstone in 2014… just as soon as they release next year’s track day calendar!