Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II Review | Track and Street Motorcycle Tires
In 2010, Pirelli launched its versatile Diablo Rosso Corsa tire, and it’s safe to say that motorcycle performance has come a long way since then. Horsepower and torque figures aren’t the only things that have punched through the proverbial ceiling for our favorite Supersport and Naked Sport machines.
The demands put on tires by a growing list of electronic aids such as traction control, launch control, and cornering ABS have proven that a from-the-ground-up solution was needed. Now, eight years later, Pirelli has answered the call with the all-new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II.
While leaps in motorcycle technology have made increasing demands on tires, the market must have its wishes addressed as well. Pirelli engineers are facing a modern sport rider that asks what was once the impossible—track-ready performance, excellent handling on the street, adequate wet weather grip, and increased mileage.
That’s a long list of demands that’ll make Pirelli’s crack-team squirm, as they’re polar opposites when it comes to tire design. If you take nothing else from this review, know that in many ways, they did just that.
The Diablo Rosso Corsa II fills a much-needed gap between the uncompromising, track-ready Diablo Supercorsa SP and the street-faring Diablo Rosso III. In a nutshell, if you require some decent mileage out of a set of sport tires, and still want to head off for a track day, the Rosso Corsa II will suit you perfectly. While the Diablo Rosso III will provide superior mileage to the other tires mentioned, that tire is not up to rigors of track riding.
Our test circuit for this new set of Italian rubber would be none other than the legendary WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, during the Pirelli Track Day, directly following the GEICO US Round of the FIM World Superbike Championship and AMA/FIM MotoAmerica Road Racing Championship.
Its 2.238 miles of undulating tarmac would provide the perfect test-bed for me to throw around some of the latest machines from Aprilia, Ducati, KTM, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, and more.
The following day, I made the 260+ mile trek back to Southern California aboard our long-term 2018 KTM 1290 Super Duke R to see what these new Corso II tires are all about in the real world.
Pirelli representatives recommended 31 psi front and 26 psi rear for track use. Spirited canyon riders are advised to use 35 psi front and 33 psi rear, while commuters are encouraged to bump up to 36 psi front and 35 psi rear.
To tackle these performance gains across the spectrum of the two-wheeled world, the Corsa II makes use of a dual-compound front tire—a first for Pirelli.
In the center, a 100 percent silica-rich compound can be found. This region helps provide excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions, in addition to rapid heat-up times as well as longer, and more consistent wear throughout the tire’s life.
As you lean into the corner and move onto the shoulders, you begin using an ultra-sticky 100 percent carbon-black compound based on the Supercorsa SP recipe, providing loads of grip while on the edge of the tire.
In the rear, Pirelli’s engineers ingeniously devised a tri-compound solution, following a similar principle to the front. When riding bolt upright, you’ll be slogging highway miles on a harder compound that has a high-silica content, meant for maintaining stability and uniform wear. You’ll be able to complete those longer rides without squaring the crown off and ruining the profile—an issue softer single-compound tires suffer from.
As you move towards the shoulder and when beginning your lean, you’ll then be riding on what Pirelli has dubbed an “intermediate compound,” providing excellent grip in both wet and dry conditions.
This region of the rear tire is supported internally by a much stiffer compound, giving it a solid foundation for stability when cornering or pouring on the gas during corner exit. Again, the shoulder has the 100 percent carbon-black compound needed for wrangling 150+ horsepower beasts into compliance when hitting the road or circuit.
Once out on the track, the Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires build heat quickly. That attribute translates to a whole lot of confidence when hurling the torque-gluttonous KTM 1290 SDR into the first batch of corners at Laguna Seca. That also means you won’t need tire warmers at a track day. Use them if you wish, but a calm lap will suffice.
With a cruising lap my belt, I began picking up the pace and putting more stress on the edge of the tires. Edge grip is impressive, even when trail braking into turn 2, which directly follows Laguna Seca’s legendary front straightaway. Coming down from 140+ mph means that your faith in the front end needs to be unwavering, and it was.
After genuinely getting some heat in the rear, I began to become more comfortable with pouring on the throttle graciously. The Super Duke R, with its claimed 104 ft/lbs of torque, demands a lot out of its tires. The only complaint the Diablo Rosso Corsa II had to offer was a hint of squirm when transitioning off the sticky carbon-black “slick” shoulder and into the next firmer compound, which does feature tread. Though, it settles quickly as you continue putting the power down.
Overall, my confidence in the Corsa II wasn’t reduced as the day wore on. In fact, it is a problem that was much less pronounced aboard the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R SE and utterly non-existent on the modestly powered Ducati Monster 821. For someone of my pace and skill level, I was well taken care of on track.
The Corso II’s consistency should also be noted. We began our day with foggy 55-degree weather and closed the day with a sun-shining 68 degrees near dusk. Throughout the entire day, and with multiple sessions with riders ranging the full spectrum regarding skill, the wear seemed to be quite even on many of the test bikes I perused, with honors going to the front.
On the street, the characteristics that shine through are only favorable. Smooth, consistent grip when entering the corners and getting off the brakes, and when rolling onto wide-open throttle, my drive wasn’t reduced in any way. As it stands, these tires offer plenty of grip for even a spirited canyon rider, with the bonus of longevity.
Pirelli helped drive its racing pedigree point home by keeping the shoulders free of any tread, as you won’t be leaning that far in the rain while out on the road. You’d be advised not to try, 100 percent carbon-black compounds are strictly designed for fair weather riding.
A nifty feature picked up from Pirelli’s long run as being the spec tire supplier for the World Superbike Championship is that the tread-free 100 percent carbon-black portions of the tires feature the same wear indicators used on Pirelli’s racing slicks.
Whether on track or the street, the new Diablo Rosso Corsa II rubber has a sporty, yet user-friendly profile. The crown of the tire features a sharper radius than the shoulders. It’s an attribute directly lifted from the Supercorsa SP, though not as pronounced. The sharper radius at the crown allows for quick, yet predictable turn-in rates and the shoulders provide a broad ledge for lateral grip while cornering.
Also, the profile between the front and rear tire work in conjunction with one another. That’s not something that all tires can say, and is an issue that WSBK riders are currently dealing with due to the taller rear tire options that have just been introduced.
In practice, that equates to a tire that behaves more than amicably under the duress of the track, allowing for smooth transitions in chicanes, and will enable riders to make line corrections, if you’ve made a mistake on entry or exit. There isn’t any reluctance to initiate a turn; it just does what you ask, regardless of the setting – street or track.
The all-important feedback isn’t lacking either. That’s most likely thanks to the construction Pirelli has utilized, making use of a new fiber carcass that supplies a great deal of information through the chassis and to the rider. It strikes a balance between the relatively soft carcass of the Supercorsa SP and the firm carcass of the Diablo Rosso III.
On corner entry, or when the brakes are piling on into corners such as Laguna Seca’s turn 11, I was most impressed with the stability. There was little to no squirming on the front, and that only occurred when I was hamfisting the lever. Generally, street tires can show signs of weakness in this department when on track and put under the pressures of motorcycles that produce high horsepower. However, the Diablo Rosso Corsa II held its own.
When it came time to get on the gas mid-corner, and through the exit, the Corsa II rear didn’t protest much. Though there was a hint of squirm when first rolling on the power, it is always subtle and controllable. Warning signs are progressive, thanks to the predictable carcass behavior.
On the road, it’s been the same feeling. Once I’ve set out and taken a few turns out of the neighborhood, I’m quite comfortable in making the next set of corners with confidence, even from a stone-cold state.
If the performance abilities are there on track, we can safely assume that street riding won’t be throwing them for a loop. Even more, the Corsa II’s inform the rider of grip well. Tar-snakes, rough asphalt, and general road conditions aren’t felt as vagaries – you’ll be aware of grip loss when it occurs.
We haven’t run these tires anywhere near the wires yet, and they have roughly six 20-minute sessions on them, with a combination of monotonous highway and canyon riding, to the tune of 260+ miles. In all, they look reasonably unscathed, with the usual track gumming in the soft-compound zones. Still, the profile has retained its shape nicely.
The only sign of wear we do see is with the D stamp beginning to fade. According to Pirelli, that’ll occur after about 180 miles, meaning we’ve worn through 0.3mm of the harder center compound.
Pirelli sees the natural competitor of the Diablo Rosso Corsa II as the Michelin Power RS, Dunlop Sportmax Q3+, and other tires of that ilk, satiating the street- and occasionally track-focused sport bike rider. The Diablo Rosso Corsa II makes a compelling argument with its performance chops on display, and its longevity appealing to your wallet, while the wet weather abilities pull at our ever-sensible heartstrings.
Sure, if you’re strictly going to be in the canyons or track and want maximum grip at the cost of mileage, the Supercorsa SP might be more your style. For someone that needs to hit the track, canyons, and tackle the daily grind of a commute, the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II is leading the pack for the Milanese brand.
Photography by Andrea Wilson
- Helmet: Shoei X-Fourteen Brink TC-5
- Suit: Spidi Warrior 2 Wind Pro
- Baselayers: VnM Sport Compression Top and Pant
- Gloves: Racer High Speed
- Boots: TCX RT-Race Pro Air
For all the action from the Pirelli Track Day, check out Pirelli’s Facebook and Instagram pages, or search for #PirelliNation.