A road legal race tyre, this year the D212 GP Pro won all four of its TTs with Michael Dunlop riding the Supersport, Superstock and Superbike. Technically it also took the Senior TT with John McGuinness, though not in the same format. According to Dunlop, the firm's Superbike slick, the KR106/108, is basically a D212 GP Pro minus its tread pattern. During the final stages of manufacture the tread pattern is imprinted on the tyre when it is going through the vulcanization stage. Up until that point there is no difference between a slick and the road tyre. So it's fair to say this tyre has some performance credibility. So what's new?
Compared with the older D211, the new D212 front tyre has a less rounded and sharper profile as well as a 20 per cent stiffer carcass, while the tread uses Dunlop's multi tread (MT) technology. Before the tyre is cooked to harden it the 'rubber' is extruded onto the tyre in a continuous run of compound a bit like putting string on a bobbin.
By varying this compound Dunlop can give a tyre several different compounds of rubber across its surface, which is what happens in race tyres when riders need a soft compound on one side and harder on the other to suit a left or right handed circuit. The D212 front has two compounds, softer on either edge and a harder central compound, which is exactly as you would expect.
Although the D212 is available in four front compounds and five rears, Dunlop armed us with middle of the range compounds as one and two are basically qualifying tyres and the only thing I was qualifying for was the sprint to bacon buttie seller. So, faced with Silverstone's full international circuit and a cross-plane crank R1, off I went.
You can certainly feel the rear has less pressure in it, but it doesn't affect the handling in a bad way. To me it seemed as if the tyre was softening any bumps out in the track and cushioning the ride slightly. As you would expect from a track tyre when you open the throttle the Dunlop digs in and grips like crazy, but for me it was the feeling of flexibility in the carcass over bumps that surprised me the most.
After a few sessions and with a vague idea where I was going I started to push a bit harder on Silverstone's corners. With the bike held on its ear through the long left then right of Luffield the Dunlops provided huge amounts of side grip, allowing me to hold the bike down before aiming at the final marker on the inside of Woodcote and firing out onto the start/finish straight. Having watched Cal slide it out of there in WSB and MotoGP I was pretty glad to be in no danger of repeating his sideways heroics, despite having the R1's throttle on the stop.
How much, how long?
Dunlop reckons you are probably looking at around £320 a set for the D212 GP Pro, which is about £100 more than a set of 'road' tyres. This extra cost is due to the fact that every D212 is hand-built by the Dunlop race department, which comes at a cost. If you are serious about your track days, or race, the D212GP Pro is an incredibly impressive tyre and certainly performed far better than me. Dunlop estimates track riders should get about three track days out of a set and after riding six sessions around Silverstone mine looked to still be in pretty good condition. Maybe I wasn't trying hard enough, bringing us full circle to the whole talent, terror threshold and manhood thing...