2009 DOT Race Tire Shootout Conclusion

November 2, 2009
Steve Atlas
Steve Atlas
Contributing Editor |Articles |Articles RSS

Professional-grade speed and an attitude to match, Steve Atlas is the new blood at MotoUSA. Atlas has AMA racing creds that are even more extensive than his driving record.

The Real Verdict 

2009 Track Tire Shootout
Five sets of the latest and greatest DOT race rubber were put to the test and the outcome was… Surprising!

Numbers don’t lie and if you were to look through a microscope one could conclude the Dunlop Sportmax GP-A as top of the pile. But I’m not going to give them a crown, some fancy title, or roll out the red carpet. Why? Because the real revelation wasn’t who won outright, but just the sheer competiveness and utter closeness of the four major race tire manufacturers.

We’ve heard it a million times at the racetrack: “I would be winning if I was on Dunlops,” says the Michelin guy, while a Pirelli rider swears he’s at a disadvantage to everyone on Michelins…and the Bridgestone guys, well, they tend to think all three of the others got one up on them. It’s the vicious circle of blame. And you’re all wrong!

I hate to break it to you guys, but as you can see here plain as day, it’s the rider and machine, not the tires, that makes the difference. Look at the numbers: Top four within six tenths at Streets of Willow and seven tenths at Willow Springs – plus the top three with within a mind-boggling one hundredth of second at Big Willow! Not to mention the order changed from track to track, showcasing the highlights of some compared to those of others, with no one tire dominating in section times at either track. It’s for this reason that instead of giving you a scoresheet and ranking them first to fifth, we’re giving the top four a flat-out tie, with the Avons at the back in an obvious fifth.

Now, due to time constraints, wear-factor is one area that wasn’t able to be fully addressed with this test, the exception being the Avons, which had to be double-stinted due to them only sending one set. And the results were apparent, as on Day 2 its times fell off drastically, losing several seconds. As for the rest, from previous experience the I can tell you the Pirellis tend to go off the quickest in high heat due to its soft carcass. Signs of this were even seen in the five laps during our test. Bridgestone falls in right behind the Italian buns due to much the same reason, while the Michelins and Dunlops top the pile. Of those two, the French rear drops off slightly quicker than the American rubber. I’ve raced both for 20-plus laps in both AMA and club competition and can give you extensive firsthand knowledge. That said, in no way is it a drastic difference; small at best. Any tire is going to wear to some extent at this pace and part of being a good racer is managing that. Thus, as a whole – Avons excluded – in a typical 8-10 lap club race all will hold up with little-to-no problem.

Boys and girls, it’s time to bite the bullet and take it like a man. Tire technology has progressed to an amazing level and if you’re on any of the four major players you’ve got nothing to bark about – other than how good they are, that is. So the choice is yours and hopefully this shootout has provided you the needed information to make the correct decision for your personal needs – though you really can’t go wrong with any of the top players…