Tires – In the footsteps of Pirelli Moto test riders –

In the footsteps of Pirelli Moto test riders

Tires - In the footsteps of Pirelli Moto test riders -

In order to make you discover in detail its activities, the Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli has invited Site on the small roads and on the circuit around Giarre, in Sicily, where its motorcycle tire test department is located…. Discovery.

While Pirelli’s head office is in Milan, in the far north of Italy, its outdoor testing department for motorcycle tires is located in the far south in Sicily, "at a latitude comparable to that of Tunis".

The French journalists invited to this exceptional ride on Scorpion Trail and Angel ST (read our tests and) will therefore not be surprised to see the thermometer happily exceeding 20 ° C from 7:30 am on the terrace – in the shade! – breakfast…

The Motorcycle Tire Test Department
Pirelli in Sicily

  • 3 tours on the island (5 others in the world)

  • 23 employees including 16 testers

  • 25 world records

  • 105 motorcycles available

  • 2,500 km of roads available

  • 3,500 m2 of workshops and offices

  • 4500 tests per year

  • 400,000 km of tests

  • 600,000 km of rolling

    An hour later, when the sun and the mercury are already starting to soar, we set off for a walk of about 190 km at the foot of Etna. And it is only after 4.5 km that the warnings of the Pirelli staff are verified…

    The ASC (traction control) of the BMW R1200RT selected by MNC to begin this journey is put into action during a relaunch that is admittedly frank, but far from being brutal … The Sicilian clan therefore had no exaggerated: "attenzione, the first third of the route the roads we are going to take will be very slippery! "".

    The BMW’s little evasion is not due to a lack of traction in the cycle part of the German motorcycle, nor to a lack of grip of its 180 mm Pirelli Angel ST tire, but rather to the low level of grip offered by the surfacing of this SS121 road as shiny as it is slippery !

    Small evasions at the foot of Etna

    What is the point of driving on such crappy roads as peculiar, when those that go up to Etna offer an incredible level of grip? "This path allows us to quickly judge the efficiency of a tire", responds tit for tat Alessandro Abate, one of the four professional testers at Pirelli Moto.

    Thus, the very first prototypes drawn with the help of a computer but always cut by hand (!) Are tested on these tortuous and tricky roads at will, as well as the tires of other brands. Because "competitive intelligence is also part of our work ", underlines the test pilot.

    "On the second third of the route, you will have to beware of holes, steps and other deformations in the bitumen of the SS575 which leads to Troina", also warned us our nice organizers … And here again, it must be recognized that the Pirelli testers are looking for difficulty !

    Now riding the little Honda Hornet 600, Site discovers a roadster fitted with an Angel ST gear which is slightly less lively at the front than it is with its original equipment. The hornet, on the other hand, remains perfectly stable, despite the countless testimonies on the road to good health of the largest active volcano in Europe….

    The grip being better than on the first portion, and the power and the torque of the Japanese 4-cylinder being lower than that of the flat-twin, the rest of the course unfolds without surprise. At the head of the procession, Alessandro quietly rolls up: he wants us to take advantage of the landscape to observe the plume of smoke emanating from Etna. !

    After a short break in Troina – and a quick visit to its cathedral built by Norman Roger I, son of Tancrède de Hauteville and father of the first King of Sicily! -, Site – cultural magazine! – attack the third part of the loop with the secret hope of increasing the pace…

    Alas, the last portion of the road is like a mixture of the first two roads … Sometimes slippery, sometimes distorted – sometimes both at the same time! -, the end of the loop does not spare the Pirelli, nor the pilots !

    The heat, which has become truly oppressive, ends up affecting concentration and reflexes. The decor is idyllic and the sky a postcard blue, but the temperature is hellish! But why "the devil" the Pirelli test department went to settle in such a furnace ?

    "Originally, Pirelli had a motorcycle tire factory in Messina, to which the test center was attached. The factory has since closed, but we stayed because we are enjoying a very favorable environment here.", explains Alessandro Abate to Site, supporting weather statistics.

    In winter, the absence of rain makes it possible to continue driving in cool temperatures, but not below zero..

    From Sicily to Brazil

    The annex of the center located in Sumarè (Brazil), where the twin circuit of Pergusa is located, also allows the modification of the behavior of the tires according to the temperature to be compared to a few days of interval, all other factors being constant..

    "This type of operation is really interesting to perform: we can test tires here in Sicily in the middle of January for example, then we take the plane and test a few hours later the same type of tires on the same machines and the same circuit, with about twenty degrees more", continues Alessandro.

    But for now, there is no question of escaping to the other hemisphere: the leather is on, the Ducati Multistrada’s thermometer displays 40 ° C and the one placed on the track is close to 60 °. No doubt, summer has indeed arrived here in Sicily !

    4950 m long, the Pergusa circuit surrounds a vast lake and offers a fairly basic route: an oval interspersed with half a dozen baffles. "The World Superbike rode here in 1989, Raymond Roche even won", remember some members of the Pirelli team.

    Discovery of the Pergusa circuit

    Since the first foray of the World Superbike in Italy – in Pergusa, therefore – the track has been redone but it does not appear: the surface is (de) composed of multitudes of patches of more or less clear bitumen, protrusions cross longitudinally, large curves and low walls line the outside of certain bends…

    At the controls of the Honda VFR1200, the 230 km / h counter is easily reached, just like on the Ducati Multistrada 1200. Something to revive the debate: is this bike really a road trail ?!

    The Scorpion Trail tires are doing quite well in this perilous exercise: the 150 horsepower of the "Testastretta 11 °" panics the DTC when exiting a curve in third gear, but if one shows a less cruel suspicion, the rear tire holds the tarmac.

    Ditto for the front tire which allows you to brake hard without the bike coming apart. The remark is a little less valid with regard to the BMW R1200GS, heavier and with the wider handlebars, making the front axle blur when put under stress.

    But this is extreme use, not to say improbable: which owner of "Gehesse" will complain about the lace of his mount, when it goes from 200 to 60 km / h in the space of 200 barely meters ?!

    "The purpose of this type of driving on track is above all to observe the behavior of the tire during use on motorways. (or rather Autobahn, editor’s note!) safely", specifies the Pirelli team. The pleasure therefore comes second….

    Although driving the circuit on a Honda CBR600F – yes, the Hornet with a fairing and half-handlebars – you can really get it right: "it’s true that it’s a dream job, a bit like yours, isn’t it? I have a huge chance to do this job !", smiles Alessandro Abate.

    It was in the paddocks of the Italian championship (125, 600 and 750) that the young driver made contact with Pirelli. "I was riding on their tires but that’s not really what brought us together. On the circuits, everyone talks to everyone because we are above all passionate", explains the friendly Italian.

    In office for over 15 years, the Senior Test Rider – that’s its official title – has observed several changes in demand for motorcycle tires: "Twenty years ago, the builders asked us above all for stability. Then the bikes got more rigorous and we had to focus more on handling.".

    "Green" and enduring tires

    Today, these two aspects are perfectly mastered. To be convinced, you just have to try a Diavel with a 240mm wide rear tire – a Diablo Rosso II, of course! – shows both remarkable stability and surprising agility !

    Next line of work: "green" or "eco-friendly" tires which are starting to appear in the automotive industry and which should soon take over the motorcycle sphere. "Tire manufacturers, like motorcycle builders, take these demands into great consideration.", confirms the test pilot.

    "Of course, endurance is more and more important: many manufacturers, like the market and our customers, stress the importance of this point. And not only in the field of sport-touring tires", adds our interlocutor.

    "Our developments also depend on the progress made by the competition", remarks Alessandro. And the tires have to change from one year to the next:"the rubber of our Angel ST released in 2009 has for example been revised this year. We have increased the silica content to 70% to improve grip in the wet", reveals the Pirelli team.

    Likewise, certain products may be suitable for certain vehicles: "we worked with Honda on the Crossrunner or with Ducati on the Diavel and the Multistrada and we continue to do so". Pirelli’s men would they therefore have information on the 2012 novelties? ?

    What about the Honda Crosstourer 1200, BMW scooters or the next Ducati Superbike? "I can’t tell you anything unfortunately. Oh yes … The Ducati will be red !", replies the head of development, that the few glasses of local drink did not even succeed in disinhibiting…

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