Category Archives: tyres

Pirelli Supercorsa vs Pirelli Rosso Corsa

I’ve been using the Pirelli Rosso Corsa tyres on my track bike for the past year, and I highly rate them compared to other tyres that I’ve tried on track; including the Michelin 2CTs and Michelin Pilot Power 3s.

However I’ve been wanting to try the Pirelli Supercorsas on track for a while and the perfect opportunity presented itself in a four day track event at Cartagena in Spain in February.

SupercorsaMy main concern with the Supercorsas was that a new set wouldn’t last four days on an abrasive circuit like Cartagena. After speaking with other riders who used the same tyres either racing or on track, it became apparent that while the front would last four days the rear might not.

Since my front Rosso Corsa was pretty much shot after more than 12 track days, I replaced it with a new Supercorsa SC1 prior to leaving for Spain. My rear Rosso Corsa still had plenty of life left in it, so I decided to leave that on and use that for the first two days on track before switching to the Superorsa rear later.

This track day was my first in over four (winter) months and so my first few sessions at Cartagena were as much about getting used to being back on a bike at an unfamiliar track as they were about testing a new tyre. Initially I didn’t notice much difference between the Rosso Corsa front and the Supercorsa – probably as a result of a my slower pace the first day. However as I started to up the pace on day two, I began to appreciate just how much grip and feedback the front Supercorsa provided. This front tyre gives incredible confidence because it sticks to the track like glue. It was brilliant under heavy braking, trail braking and when lent over at high lean angles. It just “digs” in to the corner and corners like the it’s on rails.

DSC_2875I was also amazed at how well the Supercorsa front worked with the Rosso Corsa rear. At my pace, I didn’t ever get the feeling that the front was being let down by the rear – this makes sense because the Rosso Corsa and Supercorsa rear both share a lack of tread pattern and the same rubber compound on their shoulders.

While I could have quite happily continued riding with this tyre combination, I decided to swith to the Supercorsa rear for the last two days just to see what difference it would make. My first session on the new Supercorsa rear was not great. While the tyre gave good grip, it also “moved” around a lot more than the Rosso Corsa – possibly because the Rosso Corsa has a stiffer carcass. I checked my tyre pressures on return to the pits and they were fine. For the Supercorsas, I was running 31 hot on the front and 27 hot on the rear (both measured with tyre warmers on). In contrast, I had been using 28 hot for the rear Rosso Corsa.

Over the next few sessions, I started to get used to the feel of the rear tyre and began to trust it more and more, and stopped noticing any rear movement. By the end of the day, I was used to the way that the tyre felt and was amazed at the grip levels of both Supercorsa tyres through the corners. I actually got my fastest lap time on the first session on the new Supercorsa rear despite my not trusting it 100% compared to the Rosso Corsa!

There is no doubt that the Supercorsas are the best track tyre that I have tried so far. The combination of SC1 on the front and SC2 on the rear gave amazing grip levels and confidence on the dry track. It’s worth remembering that the Supercorsas are effectively a cut slick race tyre with a road legal tread pattern.

The downsides to the Supercorsas are their cost and short life. Unlike the Rosso Corsas, the Supercorsas are subject to higher wear rates and heat cycles. My front has now done the equivalent of four track days and the rear two. I think I can probably get 1-2 more days out of the front and probably another day or two from the rear. However I will have to take a spare front and rear with me to the track in case they go “off” during the day.

The Supercorsas are a better track tyre than the Rosso Corsa. However you are not losing much in using the Rosso Corsa as they provide amazing levels of grip and feedback. When talking with tyre services at the track, they really rated the Rosso Corsa and pointed out that in a race series with it as the controlled tyre, riders were only lapping a second slower than the Supercorsa.

I also think that the Supercorsa SC1 front and Rosso Corsa rear are a brilliant tyre match, and that may be a tyre combination that I try again in the future as I improve my speed and lap times, if only to avoid having to replace the rear tyre so frequently.

Will I use Supercorsas again? Probably yes, although the cost factor will be a big decider in whether to try an alternate track tyre like the Metzeler Racetecs or the Contintenal RaceAttacks. Failing that I’m happy to continue with the Rosso Corsas which I rate really highly too.

Silverstone Int’l 2 June 2015

silverstone-intlThis bike trackday was organised by Silverstone on the Interational Circuit and cost £139 (US$ 220) with three groups. Unusually, the National Circuit was also being simultaneously used for a car trackday although being such a big circuit, I wasn’t really aware of the presence of the cars at any time during the day. This must be part of a new drive to generate more revenue per day for the circuit by the owners.

I arrived at 7:15am with gentle rain falling and a dark overcast sky. The forecast indicated that the weather would clear from about 2pm, so with luck we could expect some dry sessions in the afternoon. Now that I have a set of wet tyres (fitted to spare wheels), rainy track days no longer bother me and I set about changing over to the wets after installing the bike and my kit in the garage. One advantage of all the recent bad weather is that I’m getting quicker at changing the wheels over as a result of all the practice I’ve had recently! It now takes me less than 20 minutes to switch wheels and change the suspension setup.

Although Silverstone’s tracks days are generally less busy than ones organised by the likes of Focused Events or No Limits, I surprised at how few bikes had actually turned up on the day. I was riding in the Inters group that had just 17 riders. The fast group had 21 riders while the novice group had over 30 riders. On a sunny day you can expect to see 40-50 riders per group. Talking with the organisers, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that many riders now book up only 3-4 days before events once they know what the weather is likely to be doing. If the forecast is bad, they just don’t bother booking at all. This practice is obviously causing financial headaches for track day organisers, and they are going to need to find ways to persuade riders to book and commit earlier (perhaps with financial incentives), otherwise they are going to go out of business.

wetsHaving a set of wet tyres this year means that I don’t really care too much about the weather any more. Although I much prefer riding in the dry, the liberties that you can take on wet tyres means that the track day is still fun despite the falling rain and standing water. The only issues I face in bad weather is dealing with spray from other riders and soggy feet in my supposedly waterproof boots. Actually, the most difficult riding conditions are those where the track is drying but where there is still water and damp patches; especially in the corners. Because it’s so easy to ruin a set of wet tyres in just two laps on a drying track if they overheat, you need to switch back to your “dry” tyres and take your chances with varying grip levels in the corners.

With the briefing out of the way, the first session comprised two sighting laps followed by a return to the pits before heading out onto the track again for the remainder of the session. The sighting lap pace was pretty slow; probably due to the fact that all the instructors and about half the field were running various forms of semi-slick supersport tyres (like the Pirelli Diablo). As the session progressed, the riders quickly split into two groups; those on wets and those who were not. I allowed myself a slight smile as I rose around the outside of one of the instructors through the long right hander at Stowe as there was nothing he could do about it as he was determined to remain upright to avoid skittering off the track.

The wet weather continued for the first three sessions of the morning and the promise of a brightening sky failed to deliver a drying track that most of us were hoping for. Actually apart from my waterlogged feet and difficulty seeing, I didn’t really have any problems riding in the wet and wasn’t particularly bothered if it continued to rain for the remainder of the day.

However it was not to be because after lunch, as forcast, the rain stopped and the track started to dry; aided significantly by a strong wind. While not quite as bad as the wind I was subjected to last time on the GP circuit, it was sill strong enough to push you offline through Stowe and Club. Despite the drying track, there was still a good deal of standing water all over the place and I was able to use the many puddles to keep the wet tyres cool as I rode around. About halfway through the session, though, I could see that the good weather was here to stay and I returned to the pits to change back to my Pirelli Rosso Corsas.

During the day I got chatting with several riders including four fast group riders that I either knew or had met on previous days that were also riding Daytona 675’s. They are all active members on the 675.cc forum and it was good to put names and faces to their internet personas. Having been to Silverstone so mny times, I also know many of their instructors reasonably well, and spent some time chatting with Neil who had ridden with me for a while in the first session and who also ended up spending the whole of the final session with me, trying to help me get around the circuit more quickly than I would have done on my own.

Following an instructor is always educational and especially useful for learning lines and seeing their braking points; something that is simple to do when they are on a road bike with a working rear brake light! I always enjoy riding with Neil as he really engages with you and actively works to try and deliver improvements in your riding. As I rode around, I was also struck by the fact that he seemed to spend nearly as much time looking backwards at me as he did looking at the track ahead. I am always amazed at how much corner speed better riders can carry and Neil spent a lot of time dabbing his brakes after each corner to allow me to catch up with him again.

We had a good chat after that final session, and we both concurred that it had been great fun. When I complained that it seemed to be taking me ages to learn to ride more quickly, he reminded me that we spent a lot of the session overtaking other riders and that we were making reasonably rapid progress around the track. He also pointed out the fact that I had come on a long way since the last time we had ridden together more than a year ago.

These are my lap times for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - 3 sighting laps
2 8 1:46.97 Wet
3 10 1:40.22 Wet youtube
4 10 1:42.11 Drying/damp
5 10 1:28.73 Dry youtube
6 11 1:27.45 Dry youtube

With the falling rain at the start of the day, I hadn’t really expected great things from the trackday. However I actually enjoyed riding in the wet – it was easier and more fun than I expected. The fact that we also got two faster dry sessions was just the “icing on the cake” for me.

Silverstone’s shorter International circuit is a great short circuit because you can get 10-12 laps per 20 minute session so you get plenty of chance to practice the same corners again and again. Provided you not just repeating the same mistakes, this really gives you an opportunity to improve; especially if you have a better and faster rider to follow.

As I left the circuit and headed home down the M40, I reflected on yet another brilliant trackday at Silverstone.

Silverstone GP 5 May 2015

1PP_3663This was to be my first track day where I was actually looking forward to wet weather. Why? Because I recently got a set of wheels complete with discs and Racetec K2 Rain tyres and I really wanted to try them out. Luckily the good ol’ English weather wasn’t going to disappoint because the forescast was for rain in the morning with drying conditions for the afternoon.

The day, costing £ 179 (US$ 290) with three groups, was organised by Silverstone themselves on the full GP circuit. I booked into the Inters group as I have been to this circuit many times and know it pretty well. Unlike other track day organisers, Silverstone have switched their track day format from 7 x 25 minute sessions to 6 x 30 minute sessions, and have now added a lunch break too.

wetsOn arriving at the circuit I was greeted by low cloud and light intermittant rain but the apron where we parked didn’t seem as wet as I would have liked. I had already fitted rain tyres in anticipation of a wet start and was now wondering if I made the right decision. Since my first session wasn’t until 9:30am, I decided to wait and see what the weather did before making a final tyre decision.

The sign on and briefing were the standard fare with specific references being made about noise (105dB drive by) and being mindful of the rider in front when overtaking. During the briefing, the weather had worsened and there was now standing water all over the track – I was actually quite excited about being able to try out my rain tyres!

1GG_3561A few other riders in the group were also using rain tyres, but the bulk of them were running the usual performance sport tyres; including many on Pirelli Super Corsas – not a tyre noted for its cold or wet weather performance! None of the riders that I spoke to on those tyres looked forward to the first session in the rain. Luckily for them though it would comprise three sighting laps which would keep the pace slow, followed by a return to the pits before the riders headed out again for the remainder of the 30 minute session.

Because rain tyres are such a soft compound, I had been advised not to use tyre warmers with them and to run 33 psi in the front and 32 psi in the rear. As we lined up in pit lane the rain was still gently falling and I was smiling inside my helmet. I had heard so many amazing things about these tyres and I could not wait to try them out. I had been cautioned to allow them to heat up which they should do quickly before getting too carried away on them.

During the sighting laps, I got the sense that the tyres were quite different from a road tyre, even one as good as the Michelin Pilot Road 3. The rain tyres felt rock solid driving through puddles and never twitched once in the corners. The levels of grip were unbelievable. As the sighting laps progressed I began to understand just how different and amazing these tyres are because I was able to brake hard, accelerate hard and lean in the corners. Once the sighting laps were out of the way and we returned to the track from the pits, I gave the tyres a further lap to warm up and then I started to carve my way through the group.

1GG_0289Where riders were being really circumspect cornering, I was able to barrel into the corner, lean the bike over and drive through the corner without a twitch. Someone described riding on wets almost as being akin to riding in the dry. I wouldn’t go quite that far except to say that I felt that I could probably get my knee down in the hairpins without any fear of the bike skittering off the track. By the end of the session, I reckon that I passed a huge number of riders in the group – a feat that I will probably never repeat again.

On returning to the garage, I could see many unhappy faces. I knew exactly how they felt because I had had exactly the same grim feeling at Donington just a few weeks earlier. A rider near me on a BMW S1000RR had even skipped the first session to avoid riding in the rain. While they were praying for a dry track, I was looking forward to more rain! I was totally blown away by the rain tyres and the liberties that they allow you to take. One rider came over amazed at how quickly I was able to go. He said that he could hear the 675’s engine crackling on the overrun on the corner entry as I caught him before I disappeared again after quickly passing him.

Unfortunately (?!), the rain had stopped between the first and second sessions resulting in dry patches developing all over the circuit, helped in part by the strong winds. I had been warned that rain tyres can be destroyed in the dry so back on the track I made a point of aiming for all the puddles to keep the tyres from overheating. This was a strange thing to do especially when most of the other riders were making a beeline for the dry sections of track.

It was quite funny running into the left hander leading into Luffield (after the Wellington Straight) and purposely riding through the puddles while leant over while the other riders stayed on the dry line! As the session progressed, I could feel the pace of riders increasing along with their confidence as the track continued to dry. It was obvious that the good weather was going to stay and in order to preserve my wets for another day, I decided to pull in early and switch back to my Pirelli Rosso Corsas for the subsequent sessions.

As the other riders returned to the pits, I was about half way through changing my wheels; the back was done and I was just starting on the front. Everyone seemed much happier with the prospect of a dry track for the rest of the day and the general mood in the garage was much more upbeat. I was really happy to have been able to try out the wet tyres and was equally happy about having four more dry sessions for the rest of the day. Even the BMW rider who sat out the first session was smiling.

1GG_0863

For the third session, I was back on my Superport tyres and was having to adjust my riding style accordingly. There were still damp patches all over the track although it was fairly easy to adjust your line through the corners to avoid them, mainly due to the fact that the Silverstone track is so wide. The pace in the group was quickening up and although I overtook a few riders, I was being overtaken a lot too. My data logger confirmed that I was 11 seconds slower than my previous best time on this circuit which explains why I was being passed so often.

1GG_4685During lunch, I caught up with Joe, one of Silverstone’s instructors and someone that I have ridden around with a few times at this circuit. He offered to follow me and see if he could give me some pointers for areas to work on after the session. I caught up with him coming onto the Hanger Straight and he followed my until Abbey at which point he came past and signalled for me to follow. I did my best to use his lines but struggled to match the radius of his turns in the tighter corners like the hairpin.

1GG_1899I followed him for one lap before he signalled me to pass him presumably so that he could see how well I was doing trying to emulate his lines. Rather than following me, however, it transpires that he had to take a shortcut back to the pits because he had very nearly run out of fuel as the bike began hicupping on him. We caught up in the pits afterwards and he was amazed at the change in my riding style. Although I still need to get off the bike more, he was impressed that I was actually using the brake now! … commenting that he could actually see the nose diving and rear wheel lifting off the ground on some of the corner entries.

With two sessions still to go, tiredness was starting to rear its ugly head. A combination of illness and back pain for the past four weeks meant that I wasn’t able to work on my fitness and it was starting to show. Another characteristic of the dry sessions was that more riders were coming off the track. While there has been no fallers in either of the wet first and second sessions, there was at least one in each of the dry sessions; two of which were also red flagged.

After lunch the wind had really picked up gusting to somewhere around 20kt at times. Coming from the South West, it had the effect of blowing you offline down the Wellington Straight, made accelerating after Copse really hard into the headwind and pushed the bike offline in many of the other corners. The wind was string enough to really put you off as you rode around and probably contributed to a few of the accidents that day.

silverstone_gp

In the penultimate session, I tried to work on getting the bike more upright on the corner exit by squaring the corners off. This I did mainly on the right hander at Club and the left hander after Village leading on to the Wellington Straight. Reviewing my data logger afterwards showed a slower lap time although this could have been more due to tiredness than poor technique in those two corners.

1GG_1184For the final session, I decided to just work on cornering and body position and rode around just focusing on those two areas. I later caught up with Richard riding an Aprilia RSVR4 Factory who had been following me for a while before he shot past in that final session and we both agreed that in spite the weather, it had been a brilliant day’s riding.

These are my lap times for the day:

Session Laps Fastest Comments Video
1 - - 3 sighting laps
2 - -
3 - - GPS failed
4 7 2:57.26 youtube
5 5 3:00.33 red flagged youtube
6 4 3:02.83 red flagged

I’ll be back on the Silerstone International circuit in a month’s time and will be really looking forward to it.

Pirelli Rosso Corsa vs Michelin Power Pilot 3

RossoCorsaFrontAfter 14 track days over the past year running the same (!) set of Michelin Pilot Power 3’s, I wanted to try a new track tyre. While the Michelin’s have been a brilliant track tyre for my level of riding, I wanted to try something new that would help improve my confidence in faster corners, as this is where I’m losing quite a lot of time each lap.

Originally I had intended to try a set of Pirelli Supercorsas but being a little worried that they wouldn’t give me more than a few track days before they needed replacing, I didn’t want to get hooked on a tyre habit that was going to bleed me dry financially. The other problem with the Supercorsas is that while they are brilliant in the dry, they can be scary in the wet. Most riders running them either fit wets or sit sessions out when the rain is falling. I need a track tyre that is great in the dry, at least OK in the wet and which would last more than a few track days. I also don’t want to have to purchase a set of wets and spare wheels just yet. I know this is a big ask and I’m not expecting that any other track (oriented) tyre is going to last as well as my Michelin Power Pilot 3s have.

RossoCorsaRearBWWith that in mind, I decided to try Pirelli’s Rosso Corsa tyres (rear shown to the right). This is a hypersport tyre like the Michelin Pilot Power 3 but with a few differences. The tyre had just won UK Performance Bike’s hypersport tyre test for the third year running and it stood out head and shoulders above the equivalent Metzler, Dunlop, Bridgestone and Michelin hypersport competitors. Actually the Michelin Pure that it was tested against rated as the worst rear tyre of the test with a “vague” feel in corners.

RossoCorsa-pairThe first difference between this tyre and the Michelin PP3 is the tread pattern. The Rosso Corsa (shown on the left here) has deep wide grooves cut into the tyre but there are fewer of them. In theory this means that there should be less squirm on corner exits as the larger blocks on rubber between the treads will resist movement more than those of the PP3.

CorsaCharacteristicsThe downside of course is that the Pirellis are possibly less efficient as clearing water – this might explain why they are are reputed to be less than confidence inspiring in the wet. Another factor that comes into play is heat. I’ve read that the Pirelli’s take time to heat up and some care needs to be taken until they are up to temperature. Once they are warmed up, though, they have a reputation for being very sticky and amazing on track.

Day3-PP3-Rear-AllWhile the Michelin Power Pilot 3’s (rear shown to the right) feature a dual compound with a hard center and softer edge, the Rosso Corsa rear actually features three compounds. Like the Michelin PP3, the Rosso Corsa features a slick shoulder with a soft compound which is designed primarily for high lean angles and maximum grip. Pirelli claim that the profile of the Rosso Corsa is optimised to offer the greatest contact patch at all lean angles but especially at the edges where compound used is identical to that found in the Supercorsa SC2.

CorsaPowerGraph

In addition to increasing grip levels and confidence, this is supposed to allow the rider to put more power down coming out on corners. Pirelli’s own tests against the Dunlop Qualifier RR, Michelin Power Pure, Bridgestone BT 016 and Metzeler Sportec M5 on a Honda Firebade at its Siracusa track showed that a test rider was able to use an additional 35HP at 40 degress of lean and nearly an additional 20HP at 30 degrees of lean. Those are phenomenal differences and ought to mean a much higher corner exit speed compared to other tyres… in the dry at least.

Having read quite a few reviews on the Rosso Corsa all the way back from 2010 when it was introduced, I had high expectations for these tyres. My first test was to take place at Silverstone GP – a track I’ve ridden quite a few times this year (2014). With a dry day forecast, I was hoping to be able to make a fair comparison under near identical track conditions to my last time at the track and my own impressions of the Rosso Corsa’s would be backed up by some hard numbers obtained from my RaceChrono data logger.

The first session of the day composed of three sighting laps – these were pretty slow paced and didn’t really allow me to get a sense of what the tyres were capable of. Although I was using tyre warmers, the slow speed meant that I was losing heat from the tyres as the first session progressed.

In the next session, I was able to ride to the limits of my ability. As I was also riding with Matt, a friend and ex-racer, I felt under some pressure to ride as quickly as I could so that he didn’t get bored following me. My last time out at Silverstone a few weeks ago, my fastest lap was 2:57. This session I managed to shave 5 seconds off that time posting a lap time of 2:52 which is pretty impressive considering that this was pretty much the first time back on this track in nearly four weeks.

During the rest of the day, I never managed to better the 2:52 that I achieved that earlier session. It wasn’t the tyres or a lack of confidence in them that was holding me back because I had been working on braking later into turns, and this was upsetting my rythym through the corner resulting in a slower overall lap time. Later in the day, I eased up on trying to brake late and was able to reduce my lap times again from 3:00 back down to 2:57. In the final session of the day, I managed to maintain very consistent lap times as seen below.

Lap Lap Time
1 2:57.07
2 2:59.38
3 2:57.78
4 2:57.80
5 2:57.61
6 2:59.88

This was a dry track day with an ambient temperature between 18-20C during the day. The tyre warmers probably helped in allowing the tyres to be used hard from the off although they did cool a bit in the delay between lining up in the pits and getting out on track. As a result, I took it easy for the first lap as a precaution. I started the day running 32 psi on the front and 30 psi on the rear, but dropped those pressures by another psi or so as the track heated up during the day. The recommended cold tyre track pressures for the Rosso Corsa are 31 psi front and 29 psi rear.

RossoCorsaRearThe profile of the Pirelli Rosso Corsa is different to the Michelin Power Pilot 3 because the PP3 has a flatter profile which makes it harder to run to the edge of the tyre. I had no such problem with the Rosso Corsas as you can see from the photo to the right.

Quite frankly, compared to the Michelin PP3 that I had been using, the Rosso Corsa tyres were astounding. The edge grip was fantastic allowing me to use more lean on faster corners, and more power earlier coming out of the corners. Braking into the corners was good too; there wasn’t too much “squirm” from the front and the bike always felt planted and secure. I was getting my knee down on more corners and never felt anything other than comfortable when cornering.

If you asked me which tyre I would prefer to use in the dry, the Pirelli Rosse Corsa would be my first choice now compared to the Michelin Power Pilot 3. Whether the Rosso Corsa is as good as the Power Pilot 3 in the wet is not something that I can verify yet.

Update: November 2014

MonteRossoRearAt the end of October, I travelled to Seville in Spain and enjoyed four days riding at the Montblanco Circuit. Over the four days we had air temperatures around 28C (82F) and a track that would heat up pretty quickly by mid morning. With the exception of the first colder morning session, the tyres were operating under pretty similar conditions throughout the day because it was still around 27C at 6pm.

Due to the warm conditions I was advised to run cold tyre pressures of 30psi front and 26psi rear. These equated to around 34psi front and 30psi rear once the tyres were up to temperature. As I was using tyre warmers, and there were few delays between taking them off and getting onto the circuit, I also didn’t need to warm the tyres up on track. The grip levels were great from the first corner onwards.

MonteRossoFrontAfter four days, I can say that I am still really impressed by these tyres. They really grip well, and are fantastically stable under braking (although I don’t brake as hard as I should!). They have also lasted really well on a super abrasive circuit and I expect that they have lots more track days left in them.

They have now done five track days; racking up some 500 miles (800km) and they still look relatively unscathed. They don’t appear to be affected by heat cycles either but that could be due to the fact that I am using tyre warmers so they’ve only really been through one heat cycle on each of the five track days.

For warm and dry circuit conditions, I can’t recommend these tyres enough.

You can also read my comparison review of the Michelin Power Pilot 3 vs the Michelin 2CT if you want to know more about these Michelin tyres.

Update: April 2015

I’ve just completed a track day in the rain using these tyres and I was less than impressed. Basically, these Pirelli tyres work best with some heat in them. If the track is cold or wet and you cannot get them to generate or retain heat then you’ll probably find that they don’t give much confidence in corners. They are fine under moderate acceleration and on the brakes when the bike is upright.

If you need a tyre that offers better wet weather performance then I would try an alternate tyre like the Michelin 2CT or Pilot Power 3.

Update: April 2016

You can also read my review of the Pirelli Rosso Corsa vs Pirelli Supercorsa.

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.