Pirelli's new 17” tyres have been given a cautious thumbs up by a handful of the World Superbike Championship riders following a one-day test held at Motorland Aragon.
With the test giving riders a taste of the slightly larger tyre (up from 16.5”) before the series adopts the rubber from the 2013 season, most of the field had the opportunity to sample it over the course of the day.
Though still in the early development phase, feedback was mostly positive, with the riders noting the increased levels of grip. Even so, while Leon Haslam felt the tyre allowed for better corner exits, his view wasn't shared by FIXI Crescent Suzuki riders John Hopkins and Leon Camier.
Nonetheless, Aragon race winner Melandri was certainly impressed with the tyre, noting that the BMW felt more precise on the revised rubber.
“It was interesting to ride the new 17-inch tyres” he said. “It was a completely different feeling from the usual Pirelli tyres we race now. The bike characteristics look more precise. For sure we still have a lot of work to do with the tyre but also with the bike to find a good set-up for this kind of tyre. I hope this is just the starting point and that I will be able to test the new solution before the end of the year just to understand which direction we need to take for next season.”
Reigning champion Carlos Checa was similarly full of praise, though it is unlikely the 17” tyre will ever be used on the Ducati 1098R in a racing environment due to the manufacturer's anticipated switch to the new 1199 Panigale for 2013.
“I really liked the new tyre and I'd say it's almost at the level of the 16.5. It is very stable, corners well and has almost all of the positive attributes of the 16.5 inch. In terms of performance it seems very good, also because we didn't change the bike setting but it nevertheless performed well. We have seen a slight improvement with regard to the front, but probably this is a combination of the two, which together provide good balance.”
However, Camier felt his Suzuki was 'less nimble' on the new rubber, though he accepts that improvements will come over the next few months.
“I tried the new 17-inch wheels and tyres this morning and my initial feeling was that the bike felt less nimble. The grip was better, but that made the acceleration out of the turns a bit worse. But we didn't make any geometry changes, so it's likely that there's room for improvement.”
Tom Sykes set the fastest time on the 17” tyres with a best of 1min 57.254secs, a time that would have placed him second on the grid during the WSBK race weekend.