New DUNLOP SportSmart TT

New DUNLOP SportSmart TT

Honda Ron Haslam Race School Experiences @ Donington Park

Dunlop SportSmart TT. Never heard of them? If you ride on the road or do track days, these will be the tyres for you.

There’s nothing nicer than a phone call asking if you would like to go and test some tyres at Donington. On Tuesday 1st May I did just that on behalf of Bobs Tyres with Dunlop at the Ron Haslam Race School using their Honda CBR600s. There were a couple of firsts for me, I’ve never ridden a Honda and never ridden a 600. The last bike I rode on a track under 1000cc was an FZ750 in 1990.

Following signing on and a rider briefing we were assigned our bikes and a school instructor – Ben Shuttleworth, also a well respected racer. I was fortunate enough to have one to one out on track which was brilliant as we could ride at our own pace. First session out I followed Ben who was on a CBR500, Ben upped the pace steadily to the point where the his Honda was on the limit and Ben was having a proper fight with it, the 600 was easily coping with the pace and feeling very planted taking everything in its stride and gave me a bit of time to have a play. At this pace the tyres never felt like they were being pushed, just to try and provoke the front tyre into letting go when banked over I turn the bike in hard by pulling slightly on the inside handlebar. At this pace it was hard to move the bar and the front stayed glued to the track. Accelerating out of turns the rear, again like the front was un-phased.

Second session and Ben decided on a Fireblade. This meant that the little 600 was really going to have to work hard to stay anywhere near. On the out lap the tyres feel pretty good even though they were cold, push on a bit and you can feel the rubber working before the out lap is finished. Now is the time to find out how good these tyres are. Across the start and Bens head goes down, braking hard for the first time into Redgate and the front just digs in, tip in, still on the brakes, apex and power on. Now this little 600 is having to work really hard to hang on, down the straights its getting left behind but if I keep tucked in behind Ben I get a tow, to have a chance to try and shrink the gap gained on the straight, I’m having to leave braking as late as possible with the back going light and trail the front brake whilst cranked over, even running in fast behind the Blade the front tyre gave a massive amount of grip and confidence, the rear gave a very progressive feel as it transitioned from no weight during the braking phase to pulling back in line before powering out of the corner. This was repeated lap after lap. Even provoking the front by turning in it still felt planted with just a small amount of movement felt whilst cranked over through Hollywood and then into Craner curves, I tried this only to find a limit and it was still a fair way away so the tyres had more grip left. During a track day you’re never going to do that but I just wanted to see how they would cope. Even toward the end of the session the feel from both ends felt planted despite some rear shock fade causing the back of the bike to move around a bit coming out of Coppice and out from the Old Hairpin hard through the gears but still not giving the rear tyre to much trouble, then pattering the rear braking hard into the Foggy Esses and the Melbourne Hairpin. The front tyre just bit hard whilst tipping in despite the rear not being settled.

In all, a very satisfying day and one that would have me recommending the SportSmart TT as a fast road tyre and a very competent track tyre.

Many thanks to Bob for allowing me to represent Bobs Tyres, to Mike Gent and Dunlop, the Ron Haslam Race School and Ben for a great ride.

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Next Course Date...

October 19th