XtraPix: Fast Tires

Dunlop takes on MasterBike.

XtraPix: Fast Tires

"Control" tires are a big part of MasterBike. As much as possible, the aim at this giant sportbike test is to do just that: test bikes, not the original-fitment rubber. So having equal rubber on all the machines is a must. This year, Dunlop took the plunge with its Sportmax GP Racer D209, a high-performance street and trackday tire not officially sold in the U.S.

First, the drama. The front tire couldn't be used on the Ducati 1098R in the Twins category, as its larger-than-OEM-spec diameter caused the tire to rub on the front cylinder head during hard braking. After unsuccessfully trying to make the tire work on the 1098R, Ducati felt it was best to pull out of MasterBike, citing the fact that organizers had first chosen Pirellis but switched to Dunlops late in the game.

"Tests by our official tester, as well as some riders and testers present at the event in Albacete, have confirmed that the performance experienced with this new setup is much lower than potential performance," said Ducati. "It is for this reason that, on this occasion, we feel it advisable to withdraw from the performance tests since they do not accurately represent the high levels of quality and technology normally displayed on the track by the 1098R."

Another issue arose during morning warm-up sessions: front-end vibration on some bikes. Wheels were removed and rebalanced with no improvement. Further investigation showed that a couple of the front tires were out of round.

After these glitches, things were good. Per a 2007 rule change, the quickest six riders rode on new tires in every round. Unscrubbed, the D209s took at least two laps before full-tilt lean angles could be applied. Once warm, they provided predictable, high-level grip that enabled test riders to push the limits of these incredible sportbikes. Because the tires wore so well, some riders (including me) felt they worked better later in their life cycle. Those Dunlops demonstrated impressive performance under some very tough circumstances.

2008 Master Bike XI: The 2.2-mile, 13-turn track, consisting of eight rights and five lefts, is completely flat. Hairpin, decreasing-radius corners, high-speed kinks and a sweet chicane challenged man and machine.

2008 Master Bike XI: Testbikes take five from their rigorous routine.

2008 Master Bike XI: The Supersports going through Albacete's chicane.

2008 Master Bike XI: Cycle World's Spanish office.

2008 Master Bike XI: Suzuki's GSX-R1000 was easy to ride fast. Riders agreed how nice the suspension felt and how much feedback the chassis gave them, but there was no Miss Congeniality award this year in Spain.

2008 Master Bike XI: The Honda had great throttle response and an exceptional feel for traction; the Dunlops would slide, but unlike the ZX-10R, how much they slid was predictable.

2008 Master Bike XI: Master of Ceremonies Randy Mamola was impressed by the handling of the KTM RC8, but not so much with the balky gearbox we experienced.

2008 Master Bike XI: Yamaha YZF-R6, Honda CBR1000RR and the Aprillia RSV 1000 Factory: MasterBike finalists.

2008 Master Bike XI: With results tabulated, three bikes proceeded to the final time trail.

2008 Master Bike XI: Kawi's ZX-10R was second, but not because it was slow. Riders complained of a vague feel for traction at initial throttle opening when still leaned over.

2008 Master Bike XI

2008 Master Bike XI: Massive lean angles, early-on-the-gas corner exits and the Yamaha YZF-R6's feel for rear-end traction propelled it to lap times that were hard to beat, even on a 1000.

2008 Master Bike XI: When helmets are on, friends become fierce competitors. Just five timed laps on each bike decide which of six riders and three bikes will be in the final.

2008 Master Bike XI: This year's supplied tire was the Dunlop Sportmax D209, a Euro-spec tire similar to the stateside Sportmax GP-A. Once up to temp, grip was excellent.

2008 Master Bike XI: All the bikes were weighed and dyno-tested at the track.