by Steve Atlas

Dunlop Sportmax GP-A

Where we would normally think Dunlop enters a shootout like this as a top pick, in this case we were a bit skeptical about the GP-A going in. Let me give you some background why…

We did the Daytona SportBike shootout earlier this year and had some of the first Dunlop Sportmax GP-As made, which are the spec tire for that class. No doubt they under-performed, wearing out excessively fast, especially out back, at the hands of some relatively low-powered stock 600s. This took us by surprise as the previous D211GP N-Tec was an amazing tire, one of our favorites. But since our DSB test the boys at Dunlop have made some big strides in their GP-A and it showed in this test.

Initial impressions revealed an extremely planted and rigid tire around Streets of Willow, providing loads of grip and massive feedback, particularly up front. Bump absorption is probably the worst of the group, but this isn’t touring here and if you can’t handle some jolting through the bars, well, you’re in the wrong sport. On the other hand, this ability to translate each and every bump and crack in the pavement to the rider allows one to know exactly where they are in regards to the limit, giving the rider confidence in spades… as long as they are ready for it.

For Day 1 this translated into the second-quickest time of 1:21.83, a mere tenth of second of the Pirellis. This is the result of being quickest through individual sectors times in Turns 1, 2, 6, 8 and 11, while it was near the top in the rest. Flat out, it was consistently fast throughout the entire track. The only thing keeping it from top of the pile is a loss of 0.35 seconds in Turn 3 compared to the Pirellis. And while it makes it back up a few areas, it’s just not quite enough.

A glance at exit-speed reveals strangely low marks. With a mere 44.70 mph coming out of Turn 2, the GP-A is second-to-last, some 4 mph down on the leader, while in Turn 10 it was dead last at 42.92 mph, almost 5 mph off the pace. Interestingly, though, is that in both corners the segment times are at or near the front, highlighting that the confidence in the front tire easily made up for not getting the best drive out. It is quite quick down the back straight, right near the top, showing that exit-drive isn’t bad everywhere, only in the really slow corners.

While they may have been second on Day 1, it was top of the heap on Day 2 at Willow Springs. It may have been a tie with the Bridgestones, but shared or not, it’s still No. 1. Looking closer at individual segments reveals the GP-As quickest through Turns 6 and 7, while right in the mix in the fast Turns 8 and 9, giving up less than a tenth in each. But the real key is that, like the Bridgestones, in all of the areas they aren’t first that they were still right in the mix, not losing too much time.

A look at exit speeds backs up exactly what we saw at Streets, with the Dunlops second quickest in the ultra-high-speed Turn 8 at 118.80 mph, roughly 1.5 mph off the Pirellis. As for the slower Turn 4, it was at the back of the field, sitting second-to-last with a best speed of 67.12 mph. This is within a 3 mph range of all the other tires with the exception of the blisteringly-fast Michelins, which really shined though Turn 4 and exited at a whopping 73.19 mph.

There’s one other area that the Dunlops weren’t top dog and this was weight. The front comes in as the heaviest at 9-lb, 8.6-oz while the back is nearly the heaviest at 13-lb, 7.1-oz, with only the Pirelli rear weighing more. Yet, to reiterate, the gaps here are a matter of ounces and though they may have a small effect on performance, it’s not much.

As for how they wore, despite 100-plus degree heat we had no fade from the beginning of the run to the end with the front tire, though the rear did start to get greasy around lap five. Even so, it laid down its quickest time on the second-to-last lap at Willow Springs and the very last lap at Streets of Willow, showing it was minimal fade and the tires were extremely consistent over our testing parameters.

Factoring in the numbers and the Dunlops ability to produce consistently quick lap times, for our test they topped the Bridgestones ever so slightly in the overall data game. As for impressions, well, these echoed the numbers as the Dunlops and the Pirellis proved to be my seat-of-the-pants favorites. They still may not have the best low-speed drive-grip, but no two ways around it, Dunlop has made massive gains with the Sportmax GP-A and are back were they started – battling at the front.