I am awful when it comes to riding track. I’m not terribly interested in it and I’m not terribly good at it – no doubt one issue being the root cause of the other. So, when it comes to the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tire, which is designed to excel in both road and track use, I feel I’m really only qualified to examine one side of the coin.
If you’re interested in learning about the tire’s on-track performance, I’d encourage you to head over to Asphalt and Rubber to check out Jensen Beeler’s take. At South Africa’s Kyalami Circuit he was hustling around the track with far greater enthusiasm and know-how than yours truly, so he’s the better man to tell you whether the tires are really up to the task. (For what it’s worth, I definitely feel they are)
Yes, South Africa (skip down four paragraphs if you just want to read the tire review). That’s about the most exotic press event I’ve ever been on. I ate crocodile, grubs, impala, and kudu. I didn’t even know what a kudu was, but I got to eat one (it’s a kind of antelope). The next day I got to see one while visiting Kruger National Park. I saw hippos swimming in the river by my hotel. I was fed the best T-bone steak I’ve had since leaving Texas. And, quite accidentally, I got to sit in on an ANC rally.
I know that moto-journalists being whisked away to glamorous locations can be irksome for a few of you, so I put the question to Richard Butler, vice president of Pirelli’s North American operations: why do manufacturers host such lavish events? Is it simply to impress the mo-jos? He told me that, yes, in part, there is a desire to leave a good impression. And certainly that makes sense; no matter what your product/message, you’ll have a better chance of conveying it if the messenger is happy. But more importantly it is an issue of logistics.
For an event like the launch of the Diablo Rosso Corsa II there are a number of factors to consider when coming up with a location. You need somewhere that’s likely to have decent weather at the time of year you’re holding the event; you need somewhere with decent transport links, ie, not hard for people from multiple locations to get to; you need a location with good roads; and you need a location with a racing circuit. Throw all those together, Butler said, and your options actually become quite limited.
One thing he didn’t mention, but which I suspect is also a very big factor, is the local constabulary. Ideally, you want to find a location where the police take a relaxed view toward speeding. I’m not saying Spanish police can be bribed, but you’ll notice that A LOT of motorcycle launches take place in Spain. Meanwhile, as far as South African police are concerned, I never saw any; I suspect they have more important things to do.
Anyhoo, back to the point: tires.
If you’re a simpleton like me, the Diablo Rosso Corsa II name confuses you a little and you manage to mix it up with the similarly named Diablo Supercorsa and the Diablo Rosso III. The Diablo Supercorsa is designed for track use, whereas the Diablo Rosso III is a far more road-focused tire. The Diablo Rosso Corsa II falls in the middle of those two.
Pirelli says it has dramatically improved upon the Diablo Rosso Corsa it introduced back in 2010 with different compounds and a different tire profile. The front tire uses a double compound distributed across three tire zones, whereas the rear uses a triple compound distributed across five zones.
“The result is a tire that provides confident feel and safety on the road in all conditions, with outstanding performance and increased mileage,” states a Pirelli media release. “And it’s an excellent product for track-day sessions.”
On our first day of riding we got a chance to put the “all conditions” claim to the test because, despite Pirelli’s best efforts, we encountered rain. That said, Pirelli stresses that the Diablo Rosso Corsa II is not a true wet-weather tire. Rather, it is designed to be reliable when you get caught out.
RELATED: How to Ride in the Rain
Sport and cruiser riders alike will know the feeling of having a good day ruined by unexpected moisture from the sky, having to cautiously tip-toe your way home because your dry-weather tires are suddenly useless. The Diablo Rosso Corsa II seeks to mitigate that experience. Most riders will probably still want to call it a day/wait out the rain, but now getting to shelter will be a less harrowing experience.
On the far-from-perfect roads of northeast South Africa the tires performed admirably during roughly three hours of nonstop drizzle. Obviously, even the best tire in the world would struggle to counter diesel fuel being dropped by the ancient African trucks trundling to and from Mozambique, but by and large I was content to ride exactly as I would have back in good ol’ soggy Britain.
Moving along at a confident pace (ie, in excess of the speed limit but not so much that you’d describe my riding as reckless), I found the tire held to the road surface well, with my only wobble coming when I stupidly banged down from fourth to second just before a corner, and let out the clutch too quickly.
I feel this sort of wet-weather performance is what most riders want from a tire. Most of us have no interest in trying to get a knee down in the wet, we just want a tire that we can be confident with – a tire that will allow us to ride normally/predictably in the rain. I think many riders create dangers for themselves in the rain by slowing down so much that it confuses drivers and triggers the less patient of them to behave erratically. With the Diablo Rosso Corsa II, you don’t have to ride at a snail’s pace to get home safe.
Obviously, the Diablo Rosso Corsa II is a lot more fun when the weather’s good. Our second day of riding saw us visiting the aforementioned Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, near Johannesburg. As I say, I’m not a track guy, so I can’t really tell you if this is the perfect tire for pushing yourself and your bike to the very limit. But I will say I’ve certainly never ridden at 160 mph on a public road – as I did here. Nor have I ever scraped the pegs of a BMW S 1000 R on a public road – as I did here.
To that end, being on a track gave me an opportunity to push the tire far harder than I ever would have among the potholes and gravel and traffic and wildlife and unknowns of a public road. And with the knowledge gained from that experience I feel it’s safe to say this is a pretty damn good tire.
Feel is noticeably better than with the sport-touring tires with which I’m most familiar. It’s rubber-soled shoes on shag carpet stuff: no slipping. Pirelli’s tag line for the Diablo Rosso Corsa II is, “Follow your leanings,” and I did my best to test that. I pushed beyond my comfort zone, and with each track session I pushed a little further because the tire gave me confidence to do so. Not once did I question the tire’s ability to stay glued to the surface.
So, from a road rider’s perspective, I can’t really think of what else you could ask for – in terms of performance, at least.
Pirelli concedes that, because of its high-performance nature, the Diablo Rosso Corsa II makes certain concessions when it comes to longevity. Though, it says the new tire delivers up to 20 percent more mileage than its predecessor.
Based on reviews of the old DRC that I found on TyreReviews.co.uk (which is run by Jon of “Shuffles, Jon, and Me” fame), its average lifespan was about 4,100 miles. That’s an average drawn from only 18 reviews, so, you know, take these estimations with a grain of salt. But if that number is accurately representative, it would mean you could expect just shy of 5,000 miles from the new Diablo Rosso Corsa II.
Maybe. Exactly how you use the tire will dramatically affect your results, of course. Some of the reviewers on that site used the DRCs exclusively on road and got 7,000 miles out of them; others stuck to the track and were starting to consider replacements after only 1,500 miles.
I’ll be honest that if I had a Triumph Speed Triple or Ducati Monster or KTM 1290 Super Duke or one of the other fast bikes for which this tire is designed, I probably wouldn’t use the Diablo Rosso Corsa II. Instead, I’d go with the longer-lasting, better-in-the-wet, Diablo Rosso III or even the Pirelli Angel GT or Michelin Road 5 sport-touring tires. But that’s because those tires are better suited to my go-far style of riding. I just don’t ride at 100 percent on the road – because you need to save some percentage for dealing with surprises.
However, there’s no denying these are good shoes. And when it comes to riding hell for leather on dry surfaces, they’re a lot better than the tires I’m used to. If you are the sort of person who rides to the track, tears it up, and rides home – these are where you want to put your money.