From the first corner - a fast, blind right-hander that drops away - the former race circuit challenges grip and precision. Braking from speed while turning through turn two for the tighter turn three really tests balance and composure, while the series of tight corners that bring the circuit back up the hill test traction and agility. Topping the times is the Continental with a lap of 84.9sec, with the Michelin breathing down its neck. This is no surprise because around here this duo feel sharp, connected and direct - just how you’d expect a 19in performance tyre feel. They are composed, allowing them to carry speed into the turns, and agile and adjustable but with precision and quick responses. The Continental had ‘superbly precise steering’ and delivered ‘strong grip and a calm, exploitable balance’. The Michelin had the same decisive, keen character and carried speed with the same confidence, losing out to the Continental only because its grip didn’t feel quite so tenacious.
Illustrating the performance gap, the third and fourth place Dunlop and Goodyear were almost two seconds a lap adrift, and felt like it, too, with softer steering response and a less hooked up feel. The Goodyear scored slightly better subjectively, being better composed when turning and braking: ‘biddable, willing to adjust its line and good on the brakes. Just lacks the precision feel and traction of the best.’ The Dunlop attracted similar comments: ‘good agility, no vices, just feels rather ordinary after the Continental’.
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The Falken almost matched the Goodyear and Dunlop on lap time but was a further away subjectively. It felt hard to exploit; ‘rather inert, and less adjustability makes it feel dull. Less good on the brakes too so you can’t carry speed into the trail-brake turns.’ So the lap time was decent but it had to be driven neatly and considerately. Sixth and last was the Toyo, over half a second slower than the Falken and similar in character. It didn’t feel strong on the brakes and was traction limited, giving the impression it wasn’t keyed into the track. However, what it lacked in outright grip it made up for in balance, flowing well through the quick corners early in the lap.
Dry handling - subjective