Motorcycle Tire Test
The new Silverstone motorcycle road race circuit is very fast with plenty of hard braking and tough long hard accelerating corner exits. The new circuit layout proved a fine proving ground for Dunlop’s latest supersport tire technologies.
I chose a Suzuki GSX-R1000 to test the SportSmart tires and a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R and Yamaha YZF-R6 to test the GP Racer 211 tires. The NTEC rear tires are the big news, and this technology is featured in both the SportSmart and GP Racer 211 rear tires. NTEC is not available, or perhaps not even desirable, for front tires.
NTEC is a Dunlop technology that allows you to safely reduce air pressure when riding on a dry track for a dollop more grip. The GP Racer 211 features a triple compound, while the SportSmart has two. An independent test performed by Dekra puts Dunlop’s SportSmart tire way ahead of its competition in term of tire wear.
Out on Silverstone, I’m riding the GSX-R1000 as hard as I dare and the SportSmart 190/50-ZR17 rear tire will slide. The good thing is that I’ve still got plenty of drive, and there’s no need to short-shift up a gear. The cold tire pressures for the day were 30 psi front and a low 21 psi on the NTEC rears. The NTEC technology allows for a larger contact patch at extreme leans with less heat on lower pressures and still maintains stability. This sort of stuff gives you confidence to get on the throttle earlier and to concentrate a lot more on what you’re doing with that throttle.
With more than 180 SBK horsepower on tap, that’s important. Overall, the SportSmart tires exceeds the Qualifier II, with at least the same dry and wet grip, but with NTEC that really allows you to use more revs mid-corner. The SportSmart will most likely eventually replace the Qualifier II.
The way I could ride the GSX-R1000 around Silverstone proves that there’s a lot of performance in the SportSmart tires. The front tire is very stable under hard braking, and I can point the bike to wherever I want it to exit the corners with ease. To pass a slower rider, all I had to do was to tighten or widen my corner exit and power out of the corner faster. When tightening my exit, there’s naturally a lot more movement through the chassis. As the bike is forced to tackle all that power on a tighter line, the tires coped really well and dug in. A gentle headshake then followed into third gear and settled in fourth just in time for another hard breaking zone.
Exiting on the racing line the rear tire just acts in a way that plays mockery to my riding and asks me, "Is that all you’ve got?" Only once did the rear slip more than slide, and that happened during hard acceleration of out of a second gear corner, just a moment before I’d kick up to third gear–even Dunlop’s SportSmart can’t take an unreasonable amount of throttle always.
I’m glad that I did find some sort of limit though before hurting myself. I’m hugely impressed by the amount of grip and feedback, particularly in the corners, from a tire that’s essentially aimed at road users. Looking at that DEKRA test knowing that the tires can be thrashed properly on a circuit, too, has convinced me that the SportSmart is the set of road tires to beat.
On my first session of the day, I picked a GP Racer 211 shod Yamaha R6 to warm me up on. The 600s were flying on this day, and a lot of it was down to those super sticky GP Racer 211 tires. Mid-corner feel is just out of this world, and I had hardly finished my braking before I wanted to torture the rear tire with the throttle again.
In my final session of the day I wanted a bike that would toss all my previous laps of the day in the bin. I really wanted to go for it on those GP Racer 211s and I picked the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, which I’ve had superb experience with on track before. It wasn’t a bad choice, as I did 1.07s and 1.08s consistently, and then a 1.06 lap, which was a second faster than what I could do on the big Suzuki on SportSmarts. The GP Racer 211 must be one of the best track day rear tires out there. The Kawasaki ZX-6R is already one of the best handling sport bikes out there; the 211s amplify this and improve the handling further.
I could have continued improving my lap times until I was riding under moonlight, and all I wanted to do was to continue riding. The front tire is incredibly precise into, mid-corner and out of corners. It’s the easiest thing in the world to change direction should it be needed even mid-corner. I could pass riders on the inside or on the outside, knowing that I could still get hard on the throttle nearly anywhere and ride past. The sliding out of almost every corner was utterly predictable and the stability is great. The GP Racer 211 gives you a great advantage on the circuit, and will continue to do so as the top slick version is being developed in Moto2.
The technology in the GP Racer 211 has been developed in 250 GP racing and at the Isle of Mann TT, and Dunlop promises to keep dripping down the good stuff onto road tires. The GP Racer 211 is more of a track tire than road tire, but you can use it on the road. The SportSmart tires are the economic option and better in the wet, but you can safely also use the 211’s.
Dunlop told us that the front GP Racer 211’s uses nearly the same compounds as a true race tire. On the day at Silverstone we rode on the endurance front compound and the medium rear tires. They are also available in soft and hard. Dunlop calculates that a soft GP Racer 211 should last between 20 and 25 racing laps and the medium between 35 and 40 racing laps. The GP Racer 211 tires are available in 160, 180, 190 and 200 rear sizes.
I’m hugely impressed by the longevity of the SportSmart tires, as proved in the DEKRA test, particularly as the SportSmart’s is a high performance sportbike tire capable of doing fast laps on any bike. You’ve got dry and wet grip, stability, and longevity all in the same set of tires. The GP Racer 211 is many steps up from that again when talking grip and confidence mid-corner.
It won’t last as long, but it’s supreme on the circuit. If you’re a serious racer or racetrack fanatic, you should try a set of Dunlop GP Racer 211s this year. If only doing sporadic track days and mostly road miles, then the SportSmart is a safe and good choice, and perhaps even the best choice.