For the past few years the tire of choice in Europe has been Michelin while in the USA Dunlop has been the king of the track. It all started with the D364s that won numerous races and titles on American tracks and became the tire to have on your Sunday morning sportbike. Then two years ago Dunlop introduced its D207 GP tires and made their previous racing tires obsolete.
Despite ard challenges from Michelin and their Pilot Sport tires, many U.S. riders stayed Dunlop-shod out of comfort and loyalty despite a few disadvantages. Now, to stave off any charges from other manufacturers, Dunlop has improved upon the D207 GP with its newest iteration, the D207 GP Star. The Star is a tire that has been in development since the launch of the first 207s two years ago and has been tested by some of Dunlop's top riders in numerous racing disciplines in order to refine it into what we can ride today.Dunlop's Marketing Manager Michael Manning calls this newest Dunlop tire "the next inevitable step in the evolution of the D207 line." One of the main differences between the GP Star and the older, standard GP is the profile. Most significant is the 3 mm decrease in the inflated diameter of the front tire that should provide the rider with more feedback and allow the bike to be more precisely steered through the corners.
The compound is the same as the standard 207, but the tread pattern has been changed. The tread is cut differently and is similar to the Pilot Race tires in that the closer you get to the edge the less tread there is, therefore rendering the tire almost as effective as a slick. To help avoid confusion and talks of scandals and misinformation, all D207 GP Stars come with directional arrows emblazoned on the sidewalls. When mounted correctly, the tires looks like they're backwards, but in that way the edges of the tread don't feather as much as when mounted what is, at least on this tire, backward.
We had the opportunity to join up with Jason Pridmore and his go-fast gang at the awesome new track in Pahrump, Nevada (think Streets of Willow, but longer, smoother, cooler and run by nice people). His STAR Racing School was being held in conjunction with Dunlop's intro of the D207 GP Star tire. We fit the Stars to a 1999 Triumph Daytona 995 that most people view as, at best, a mediocre track bike. After a few laps on the stock Bridgestones, we agreed.Then the guys at Dunlop stuck a pair of D207 GP Stars on our Triumph. After a few laps to scrub in and heat up the tires, we were able to start cranking. Immediately the bike felt better balanced and far more composed. One of the most noticeable differences, even in comparison to last year's D207s, was the turn-in. While trailing off the brakes heading towards the apex of a turn, the Triumph steered easily and precisely. The tires never exhibited any bad traits like wandering under hard braking or standing up while trail-braking over rough pavement.
While we didn't have a set of Michelin's Pilot Race tires on hand to compare, the D207 GP Stars felt every bit as solid. The perceived Dunlop/Michelin difference seemed evident on these new Stars. Generally, Michelins don't like to slide and Dunlops almost prefer to be slid out of corners, steering as much with the back wheel as the front yet remaining predictable and controllable.
From what we felt during our initial, limited impression of the D207 GP Stars, we can say that Dunlop has not simply re-grooved last year's tires. They appear to have at least matched what other manufacturers are offering. Whether or not the new Dunlops are markedly superior to the competition we won't know until we get more track time and run them against competitive tires. But from what we felt on the track, these tires are likely to keep Dunlop on the podium for some time to come.
The tires won't be available until early 2000 and at first only in sizes 120/70 ZR17 for the front and 180/55 ZR17 for the rears. Prices have yet to be announced. For more information, visit Dunlop's website at www.dunloptire.com