Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa Tire Review

World Superbike tire tech trickles down


Creating a sport tire is a cruel compromise for engineers. Riders always want more grip, but few beyond racers are willing to tolerate replacing tires at 1000-mile intervals.

Modern tire design has provided a partial solution to this balance conundrum in the form of multi-compound construction. Slap on a durable compound at the tire’s center for extended longevity when droning around in a straight line. Then incorporate sticky rubber at the tire’s edges where traction really counts.

The latest tire to follow this design ethos is Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso Corsa (DRC), a replacement for the dual-compound Diablo Corsa III. The DRC shouldn’t be confused with the Diablo Rosso (non-Corsa), which is a lower-performance tire that trades some racetrack grip for better wet traction and durability.

Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso Corsa is a new high-performance tire that can easily transition from sport riding on the street to trackday heroics.

The front DRC consists of a single compound in which silica is a component (for quick warm-up and wet traction) not used in the rear tire. Pirelli says the DRC’s profile is more like its WSB tire than the non-Corsa Diablo Rosso. The shoulders of both tires are “nude,” as in no tread, for maximum grip and stability.

The rubber employed in the shoulder area of the rear DRC is borrowed from the SC2 compound used in World Superbike competition where Pirelli is the sole tire supplier. The edges feature “high-dispersion carbon black,” while the more durable center of the rear tire has new resins and plasticizers for durability and optimum balance between wet and dry grip, using what Pirelli describes as “high-resistance differentiated carbon black.”

Pirelli describes the DRC as “The first tire you can personalize.” A dedicated spot on the tire’s sidewall is reserved for customized labels you design online. Your country’s flag can be the backdrop to your name, as shown in this photo. Six stickers cost 5 euros (about $6).

Pirelli R&D

With about 14 million motorcycle tires sold annually, Pirelli’s tire business is a huge operation with facilities around the world. Pirelli says it spends more of its income on R&D than its competition, boasting that it logs 1 million kilometers (625,000 miles) of testing annually. That’s the equivalent of 40 laps of the earth each year!

In addition to the crucible of engineering as the sole tire supplier in World Superbike, Pirelli performs much of its tire development at its 3.3-mile Siracusa test track in Sicily. Here are a few more factoids from the 138-year-old Italian tire company about its new Diablo Rosso Corsa.

Pirelli Diablo Corsa Facts
- The Diablo Rosso Corsa laps Siracusa with a time of 1:50.05.
- The DRC is about 1.5 to 2.0 seconds quicker than the Diablo Rosso.
- The DRC’s biggest advantage over the DR is at lean angles from 30 to 40 degrees.
- The DRC is about 2 seconds slower than the Supercorsa SP.
- The Supercorsa SC is quicker than the SP but not homologated for continued high-speed use such as the Autobahn, so it carries a lower speed rating.
- The DRC’s competitors include the Conti Sport Attack, Bridgestone BT016, Dunlop Sportmax Q2 and Michelin Pilot Pure.

Pirelli’s chief test rider, the ever-jovial Salvatore Pennisi, is flanked by R&D director Piero Misani (left) and general manager Guillermo Fiocchi (right). Pirelli’s marketing materials always mention the word “passion” when describing its products, which seems a bit cliché until you hear the enthusiasm from these guys when they talk about their tires. 

A Tasty Buffet

The “Corsa” in the new Diablo Rosso’s name is Italian for racing, so Pirelli brought us out to the rarely sampled Assen TT Circuit in Holland. We’d ride the historic 2.8-mile track on the new DRCs the day following the World Superbike races, which were some of the most exciting ever seen.

The electronic rider aids of BMW’s S1000RR helped Duke navigate his way around the Assen TT Circuit.

If that wasn’t enough motivation for a good time, the cornucopia of sportbikes laid out on pit lane as a sampler plate surely was. Given the morning’s cool and dampish conditions, I reached first for the BMW S1000RR’s keys, hoping its traction control and ABS would bail me out while I learned which way to wobble around this fast and flowing racetrack.

Pirelli showed a lot of confidence in its new tires by letting a bunch of caffeine- and adrenaline-fueled journalists out on the track without the benefit of tire warmers or track-specific tire pressures. Also worthy of note is that just one bike hit the ground (a gentle lowside in the third corner of a warm-up lap – nice to finally pass you, Steve-O!) during a full day of non-stop riding.

It only took a couple of corners to ascertain the Diablo Rosso Corsa steers quicker than the Metzeler Sportec M5 we recently tested, allowing the Beemer to feel more agile. And it took just one blast down the front straight and scrubbing speed into Turn 1 to be thankful for anti-lock brakes, which could be felt pulsing over wet patches.

The R1’s amiable throttle response and the DRC’s sticky edge grip allowed for some brisk laps around Assen.

Next to feel the wrath of my WSB-level throttle hand (Ha!) was a Yamaha R1, a bike that didn’t make the cut into our 2010 Literbike Shootout because of its relatively low power-to-weight ratio.

Out on the Assen TT circuit equipped with Pirelli’s DRC, the R1 provided cooperative turn-in response, and mid-corner feedback is direct, feeling stable and precise through the 2.5km of 0-degree steel cord in each tire. Acceleration grip is plentiful, as the R1’s front end rose off the ground several times while on the gas still leaned over. It only took a couple of laps before I was decking the R1’s pegs in multiple corners, so the tire’s SC2 compound obviously has potent edge grip.

Pirelli’s marketing crew suggested to us that the Diablo Rosso Corsas deliver to the ground 10 hp more than other tires in this segment, offering as evidence the amount of distance gained through corners. It seemed a bit hyperbolic to me, but there’s no doubt the DRC’s can scamper around a racetrack.

After making a lap behind the photographer on Ducati’s exotic 1198S Corse (with aluminum tank), we got one more lap of Assen at speed. The Diablo Rosso Corsa supplied a light and nimble feeling from the $25K Ducati.

World Superbike Rubber

As the spec tire in World Superbike competition, Pirelli reaps a lot of R&D feedback from some of the fastest racers in the world. It’s also a massive endeavor, as some 5000 tires are brought to each race. Here’s a few more quick hits of info from Pirelli’s racing arm.

Pirelli Racing Facts
- Pirelli’s WSB contract continues until 2012.
- Pirelli claims an average per-lap reduction of 0.8 second in 2009 competition compared to ’08.
- Brought 4 fronts and 3 rears of tires to Assen, plus superpole and rain tires.
- There are 40 to 60 tire options available during the course of a season.
- Dual-compound rubber is used only at two circuits.
- Phillip Island demands a harder compound on the left side, while Monza requires a harder center - section to cope with the 200-plus-mph speeds.
- Tires for the U.S. round at Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park are used nowhere else during the season.
- A new 200/55-17 was recently introduced in the Italian Superbike Championship, and we expect this size to soon show up on production literbikes.

After lunch, we were again sent out on unwarmed, unscrubbed tires, but this time I had Pirelli reduce pressures to a more track-appropriate 30 psi front, 32 rear. The bike of choice this time around was Honda’s CBR1000RR equipped with C-ABS

The lower tire pressures helped the rubber quickly come up to temperature, as I was dragging knee before the first lap was complete. Not long after, my ears were greeted by the satisfying sound of footpegs skimming the track surface.

The Diablo Rosso Corsas proved a good match for the eminently likeable Honda CBR1000RR. Us American journos wondered why we don’t get the option of ordering this attractive HRC-inspired paint scheme.

Again, the DRCs feel neutral with no surprises, allowing the rider to look for opportunities to shave lap times instead of wondering how the bike’s going to behave in the next corner. At this point I became convinced the DRCs are better than the Corsa 3s, which was Pirelli’s primary mission.

With my literbike hunger sated, I decided to ride a Kawasaki ZX-6R to test the 180mm DRC, one of four sizes available for rear wheels ($249 to $346 MSRP). A 120/70-17 is the only front DRC offered ($205 MSRP).

The 180/55/17 proved flickable, neutral and confidence inspiring on the Ninja. It also demonstrated that I don’t have enough talent to continuously ride a literbike to its limits, as I felt like I went at least as quickly as I did on the more powerful machines.

The tracks of this train of thought led me to this final one: For a rider of my speed, it’s difficult to make a case for a full-race rubber if only riding trackdays and canyons.

So if you’re not regularly grinding footpegs, you don’t need anything more grippy than the Diablo Rosso Corsa. Be honest with yourself: How fast are you, really?

The Diablo Rosso Corsa is a solid choice for a hard-charging sportbike rider, combining gluey grip with decent longevity.

Realted Reading
EICMA 2009: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
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