If you’re like me, you love ripping around at trackdays, going as fast as you want without the fear of cops or opposing traffic waiting to ruin your day. That feeling you get when you know your tires are nice and hot and can do no wrong is simply magical and adds to the allure of motorcycling you simply can’t explain to your non-riding buddies. But if you’re also like me, then you’re lazy and too much of a cheapskate to bother buying tire warmers and a generator to operate them. So what’s one to do if excellent grip is the goal, but putting those pigs in a blanket just ain’t gonna happen?
Lazy cheapskates rejoice! Pirelli has the answer. It’s called the Supercorsa TD (bet you’ll never guess what the TD stands for…). Following in a long line of hugely successful versions and iterations of the Supercorsa, Pirelli has once again taken the knowledge it’s gained from competing as the sole tire supplier to the World Superbike series, and applied it to street tires you and I can use. (If all you care about is the riding impressions, scroll down a few paragraphs).
In the TD’s case, Oscar Solis, the Motorcycle Road Race Manager for Pirelli North America, saw a gap in the company’s offerings – that of the budget-conscious trackday goer. So, he took it upon himself to develop a new version of the Supercorsa to cater to this group. Doing much of the donkey work in the TD’s development was none other than Jake Zemke, primarily aboard Ducati’s fire-breathing Panigale V4. If the TD could stand up to the rigors of the Panigale, then it can surely handle anything else.
The goal, of course, was fast warm-up times and affordability. To meet the first goal requires a delicate dance between construction, compound, and chemistry – the three C’s – to reach a happy medium. The exact chemistry is a secret, says Solis, only giving away that it’s a combination of “Unicorn tears and dragon’s blood.”
From a compound standpoint, the TD lies between an SC2 (the hard compound racing tire) and the SP (the street-focused version of the Supercorsa which comes as the OE tire on some bikes), because, while the TD is meant for the track, it’s still a DOT-legal tire and is perfect for a spirited ride through the canyons, too. Unlike other tires, which use different compounds throughout the face of the tire, the TD uses a single compound from end to end (though this compound varies depending on the size of the tire, correlating to the power output of the motorcycle). This is interesting because, while some tires rely on a high silica content to get up to temperature quickly, Solis maintains the TD is instead heavy on Carbon Black for better grip, more consistently (once Silica overheats, which is easily done in a track setting, grip suffers).
So, what’s the magic formula? Without giving too much away, Solis pointed me towards the carcass. Pirelli tires have been known for having a soft, flexible carcass. This is key, as carcass flex – achieved through hard braking and acceleration (not swerving, like what your C-group buddy might have you believe) – is what warms up a tire. Taking advantage of the flexible carcass, revised compound chemistry, and Pirelli’s zero-degree belt technology which helps distribute heat evenly across the tire, the TD is able to get up to temp quickly and without the need for tire warmers.
Lastly, Solis maintains the TD isn’t a response to Dunlop’s Q4, another trackday tire boasting quick warm-up times without the need for tire warmers. The genesis of the TD was independent of Dunlop – the Q4 simply came to market first.
As a track tire capable of handling street duties, the Supercorsa TD continues the lineage of its Supercorsa cousins as being performance-oriented first, and to test its capabilities the MO staff slapped them on their respective steeds for our staff trip to Laguna Seca to watch the World Superbike races, taking the long, winding way to the Dry Lagoon. The Monday following the races was a Pirelli-sponsored trackday (full disclosure, though these thoughts and opinions are our own), with the ride home to SoCal on Tuesday. The whole shebang would come out to roughly 1,000 miles.
It was only after that that I got to sample the rubber aboard the Ducati Supersport at Buttonwillow Raceway in 102º ambient heat.
To say the TDs came to temperature quickly in the triple-digit heat would be an understatement. After setting cold track pressures to 28 psi/25 psi front and rear (raise them both about 5 psi for the street) I took it easy, waiting half a lap before putting my knee on the ground, but I probably could have done it by turn 3. Instead, I was curious to know how the tires would work after 1,000 miles and in the scorching heat. Pirelli’s soft carcass allows it to communicate to the rider, and as I gently upped the speed and increased lean angle, the positive, planted feedback I got from the TD’s was reassuring – so much so that it wasn’t long before hard parts (in this case, the Supersport’s underbelly exhaust canister) started touching the ground in no time. Stability under braking, even trailing it into corners, was impressive, but again, I could feel from the feedback I was getting that trailing hard like I would with a dedicated Supercorsa SC1 race tire would be a bad idea.
In the rear, the TD’s handled the heat respectably. Again, after so many miles and getting baked by the hot sun, the feedback from the TD was telling me optimum grip levels were gone, but what was left was still plenty for A-group track riders. Nonetheless, the tire remained predictable throughout, offering no surprises. Towards the end of the day, the Ducati’s traction control got a workout as the modest power from the Supersport’s 937cc L-Twin could engage a controlled spin if I got a little greedy with the throttle.
Personally, I’ve come away very impressed with the Supercorsa TD. It’s not a race tire, but the TD branding on the sidewall should tell you exactly what kind of environment this tire thrives in. But don’t just take my word for it; here are the other MOrons to tell you what they think after riding to and from Laguna Seca with a track day in between.
On the KTM 790 Duke, the TDs offered as much grip as I needed throughout the track day. The front profile of the tire also quickened the steering slightly, which contributed to my fun on the street when the road got super twisty. The TDs heat up quickly, making me comfortable upping my pace to knee-dragging levels towards the end of my out lap. Normally, I’d wait a lap or more before throttling up this much. Admittedly, the temperatures were warm at Laguna Seca, and I’d probably be a little more cautious in Fall or Spring weather. After approximately 1,000 street miles and one track day, the tread looks good enough do another track day. Pretty impressive!
The TD offered quick warm up, linear turn in, and plenty of grip to trail- brake all the way up to the apex of turn 2 at Laguna. The only time I felt anything besides complete grip was using the paint on the inside of turn 6 which I think is more of a statement of the type of paint we use in the States versus European GP tracks than a criticism of the tires. Returning home on intermittent sections of chilly foggy weather on PCH the tires behaved well and didn’t offer any wheel spin or slip (not something I would recommend with a full-on DOT race tire). Having burned through a set of Supercorsa SPs on my 2016 Tuono Factory in only about 1,000 miles, I’m happy to report the TD’s looked plenty healthy after about 1200 miles or so and one track day on the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce.
With less track time under my belt than the rest of the crew, having some nice sticky buns on our bikes for the track day at Laguna Seca definitely helped my confidence levels while figuring out the new (to me) circuit. A few sessions in, it became obvious how quickly the tires got up to temp. I had been conservative earlier in the day, giving myself a full out lap before I would start pushing them at all, but after a couple of sessions I realized the tires were ready to go sooner than I expected, giving me the opportunity to take full advantage of nearly every lap around the world-famous Weathertech Raceway.
Well ya know, I never rode fast enough last year to run Pirelli’s new Diablo Rosso II past the traction threshhold, so for me these Supercorsa TDs are pretty much like bringing an infantry squad to a knife fight; you may need this much traction if you do multiple track days a year, and seriously haul the male or female. Also, it’s hard to say how much plantedness is the modern BMW S1000R’s TC and lean-sensitive ABS, and how much is the tire? Suffice it to say my BMW was on rails no matter how early I tried to open the throttle or how hard and late I dared squeeze the brakes on a borrowed motorcycle I needed to ride home tomorrow. Compared to riding at Laguna 20 or so years ago on a GSX-R1100, on I think Dunlop D204s or something, the difference in my confidence is nearly night and day, in spite of being 20 years older. Modern electronics and tires like these are big reasons why you may need a new motorcycle without being aware of it.
The Pirelli Supercorsa TD is available in a wide variety of popular sportbike sizes for small-displacement motorcycles all the way to fire-breathing liter-class machines, with pricing starting at $145 for a 110/70-17 front, to $217 for a 200/55-17 rear. The Supercorsa TD is only available through select race tire distributors. Click on the US Pirelli website to find your nearest one.
A quick note: as of press time the TD is only available in the US. Sorry, cheap and lazy trackday riders in other parts of the world. However, it seems crazy not to offer this tire globally at some point, so if you’re reading this from outside the US, don’t lose hope.