Avon Extreme’s VP2 showed up to face off against the big boys in our 2009 edition of the DOT Race Tire Shootout.
Though we asked for two sets of tires, Avon opted to only send one for financial reasons. Right away I could tell it was easily the softest feeling carcass of the bunch with initial squish vastly apparent, especially from the rear. Outright grip up front wasn’t the best, though at least it was in the ballpark of the rest, but corner-exit drive grip from the rear was bad right from Lap 1 on Day 1, and next to scary by the end; especially on Day 2 once the tires were worn and used for a second time. Just touch the throttle at full lean and the rear was making a run at the front.
For base speed parameters we used Turn 2 and Turn 10 at Streets of Willow and Turn 4 and Turn 8 at Willow Springs. These are examples of two slow-speed corners around Streets as well as a medium-fast and the fastest corner at Big Willow, giving a baseline of how the tires act in a wide variety of situations under acceleration.
Looking at Turn 8 at Willow Springs shows an exit speed of 116.20 mph; this is at the very bottom of the group and some 4 mph slower than the 120 mph of the Pirelli DSC. At slow speeds around the Big Track the lack of grip wasn’t as apparent, especially in Turn 4, where it actually has the second-highest exit speed of 69.40 mph. Though despite the high exit-speed, looking closer at the lap-chart data shows the Avon is the slowest of the bunch to complete the turn, suffering from side-grip issues.
Chris McGuire (shown here mounting a set of Pirellis) found the Avons to feature an extremely soft carcass and that just fell onto the rims.
In fact, the Extremes were slowest in all but one corner of the track at Willow Springs, which adds up to by far the slowest lap time of the group: 1:30.13, some 2.5 seconds shy of the front-running times. And while that may not sound like much, considering the other four are within 0.7 seconds, it shows how far off the Avons are when only slightly used.
Also noteworthy, tire technician Chris McGuire commented after the test that “the Avon tires literally fell on the rim. It was so soft that I could have mounted it by hand. I’ve never seen a tire with such flex and soft carcass. To be honest it was almost scary.”
One area they did shine, and which fits with what McGuire said, is weight. Coming in the lowest of the group, the front is a mere 8-lb, 9.1-oz and the back a featherweight 13-lb, 1.1-oz, both several ounces less than the competition. Though as you can see this light weight did nothing to translate into fast lap times.
Day 1 at Streets of Willow, with new tires, the Avons fared slightly better, yet the overall outcome was the same. While some sectors it wasn’t at the back, including the slow Turn 2, the final product was the slowest time of the group at 1:22.69; but instead of being some three seconds off the pace, the Extreme was under a second back.
Avon’s Extreme race rubber features a very sparse tread pattern, no doubt designed for dry-weather performance first and foremost.
Backing up my perception of lacking rear end drive-grip, a look at the segment times from Streets shows the biggest loss for the Avons being both the front and back straight. This is no question a result of not being able to get on the throttle as early as the competition. The front straight showed a rather large loss, while the run down the back stretch was slightly less off the top time. But when adding these together one can make up for nearly the entire deficit in overall time. Goes to show with some added drive-grip the Avons would be right in the hunt – at least when brand new, that is.
This is also apparent looking at the times through the rest if the corners, as it was mid-pack in nearly all of them. Not to mention in Turn 9 it was only 0.01 seconds off the top time. Why you ask? Because front-end grip, when new, is on par with the rest if of the group; it’s out back where the Avon suffers. This is why it really showed down the straights, as a lack of drive out of the corner translates all the way down the straightaway and exaggerates the time discrepancies.
In fact, just to give you an idea of how rapidly the of rear end grip was falling off, by the fourth lap on Day 2 at the Big Track (only the ninth lap on the tires since brand new) I had so many hair-raising moments that I made the decision to count my blessings and pull in. And by no means am I one to throw in the towel unless it’s utterly necessary. But in this case, had I crashed, the whole test would have been invalid, so keeping the Suzuki on two wheels was top priority. And the Avons were fried!
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