by Steve Atlas

Bridgestone Battlax BT003

Unequivocally the surprise of the test was Bridgestone’s Battlax BT003 buns. Overall feel and feedback replicated the Pirelli quite closely, though a bit more stiff of a carcass, especially up front. In fact, I would say it’s nearly an exact cross between the Dunlops and the Pirellis. This equates to a front tire that is more planted and less “mushy” under hard braking while still soaking up some of the small pavement bumps that you feel though a harder carcass tires.

Day 1 at Streets and the BTs were third quickest at 1:21.84, a mere 0.12 seconds off the top. Proving the tires worked well both at lean and under acceleration, the two places on the track it was best were the ultra-slow Turn 4 and the back straight; Turn 4 highlighting its flickability and composure at lean with the back straight showing that it gets a great drive out of the turn leading onto the straight. It’s for this reason that the Bridgestones are also right near the top in every other corner, only losing tiny chunks of time here and there.

This was backed up with our slow-corner exit-speed comparison as the BT003s were second-fastest exiting Turn 2 at 46.31 mph (2 mph off the top spot), while ranking No. 1 in Turn 10, recording a 47.12 mph velocity, which was some 2 mph up on the second-place Pirellis. No doubt this put the surprise Bridgestones in the running right from the beginning.

Further adding to the where-did-these-come-from factor were the weights, as the Bridgestones shed off their former “Bridgerock” slang namesake and are the second-lightest both up front at 9-lb, 1.4-oz as well as out back at 13-lb, 2.8-oz.

And the eye-opening continued as they fared even better on Day 2 at Willow Springs, laying down a shatteringly quick time of 1:27.63 to tie the Dunlops right down to the thousands of a second for top honors. Who knew these guys made such a good club-level racing tire? Think there is any MotoGP trickledown technology in them?

Individual corner segment times show the Bridgestones top in both Turn 1 and the Turn 8/9 combo that leads onto the front straight. While they may have lost a few tenths in some parts of the infield, there was no one place where they really struggled and the end result was a tie for the quickest time of the test at Willow Springs.

Looking at Willow Springs exit speeds in Turn 4 and Turn 8 shows the Bridgestones right in the center of the group, ranking third in each. Looking more specifically at the 117.30 mph it clocked in Turn 8, despite being 3 mph down on the Pirellis they were still fastest through the sector from entry to exit, going to show that exit-speed isn’t everything. No doubt the Bridgestones make up some serious time on corner entry in Turn 8 to be mid-pack at the exit yet still fastest though the corner.

In fact, they are also top dog in the final Turn 9 sector, thus the BT003s are getting a great drive exiting the final corner, which translates all the way down to start/finish. It’s also quickest in the Turn 1 area, which includes from start/finish through to the exit of the first corner, further showing just how much quicker the Bridgestones are getting the Suzuki down the front straight and through the fast turns.

Durability wise, the Battlax fared well at the tighter Streets of Willow, not showing a hit of overheating or wear, setting its fastest lap on the final go-round. As for Big Willow, by the end of the session the rear was on the greasy side, slowing my lap times down ever so slightly and making for some well-controllable but pretty big slides coming out of Turn 8. Fun stuff but not conducive to fast times.

Looking at the B’Stone overall, it’s a great tire and undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the test. I had no idea what I was on when riding and, well, the numbers speak for themselves. All data factored and rider impressions taken into considerations, only one tire fared better, putting the underdog ‘Stones in the same league as the mighty Michelins, awesome Dunlops and race-bred Pirellis. I told you there was some MotoGP in there somewhere…