Salvo Pennisi does not need much in the way of presentation; a 360° motorcyclist, he started in 1980 as a tester until he became the Testing and Technical Relations Manager of Pirelli Moto. 23 records with Pirelli at Nardò in his curriculum and a world extreme altitude record reached in Chile in 2017 at Nevado Ojos del Salado. He was even the tester of Eddie Lawson's Cagiva 500 GP C592 in 1992, the years when he was involved in the development of the legendary Ducati 916 with Massimo Tamburini's CRC.
The Motorcycle Testing Department, which was formed with him in Sicily, is a very useful structure for the manufacturers for the development of a motorcycle tyre that is racing, touring or off road.
In the last 10 years Pirelli has reached a level of excellence, becoming a premium brand chosen by the main motorcycle manufacturers. What is the secret of your Research and Development centre in Sicily?
"First of all, I believe in motivation, pride of belonging, the desire to emerge and make a difference. Then the pleasure and awareness of doing something extraordinary every day and knowing that you have a company behind you that has a such a story that you are proud to be a part of it. As Head of Testing and Technical Relations, I have constant contact with colleagues in the technical or marketing area, as well as, of course, with the management of the Motorcycle Business Unit. Together we provide the manufacturers total support to define the development of dedicated tyres. We receive specific requests for the same size, for example to have slightly different tyre casings or profiles to improve the handling of the motorcycle. Our job is to support the manufacturers, maximizing the characteristics and rideability of their motorbike ".
On the Panigale V4 in 2018 the Pirelli 200/60 17 was introduced for the first time, but with the initial "D". What does it represent?
"The D stands for Ducati specification. Ducati engineers asked us for a tyre that had a greater footprint on the ground and that could better support the lateral forces for the incredible power of 226 hp, achieved by the Panigale V4 S (see HERE the onboard video from Bahrain). We worked for a long time to obtain a casing that would transmit the maximum feeling, but at the same time that would not flex too much and a compound that could guarantee an adequate mileage".
What are the main features of the OEM SP Supercorsa?
"The Panigale V4 (read the complete test HERE) is equipped with Pirelli DIABLO Supercorsa SP tyres in the sizes 120/70 ZR17 front and in the revolutionary 200/60 ZR17 rear; derived from the slick product also used in the FIM Superbike World Championship, it represents in all respects a generational leap in the field of racing replica tyres. The innovative profile of the rear size maximizes the footprint in maximum lean and in the shoulder makes the most of the advantages of bi-compound technology, which adopts the same SC2 compound as the racing slick products, able to offer the typical grip of a racing tyre, while ensuring the sturdiness and versatility necessary for road use. The front tyre has a profile designed to work in total harmony with the rear one: enhancing precision, stability in support, up to the "safety feeling" and grip loss prediction. Finally, the tread pattern of the DIABLO Supercorsa SP features a "flash" geometry aimed at optimizing the performance on the track by improving wear, and reduced groove widths designed to ensure adequate support for the superior lateral forces".
How does the development of a road racing tyre come about?
"We have been able to combine the experience gained in racing in an optimal way, thanks to the fact that our Testing Department deals entirely with a series of activities related to experimental pre-development, with some success in recent years. The aim was not merely the search for peak performance, but the achievement of an "Extreme Riding Easiness", a concept that would make the potential that this tyre has in its DNA, usable for any type of user. To do this we have overturned consolidated research concepts and experimentation by working closely with some motorcycle manufacturers and with the producers of the most advanced riding assistance systems. For this reason, we have spared nothing in terms of research, evolution of materials, applied design concepts, evolution of the same industrial processes. We also do not neglect periodic comparisons with professional riders with fairly frequent consultancy experiences with our partner companies to discuss concepts and results and thus put the last pinch of salt in the minestrone... "
What interaction is there between the Marketing/Sales department and the Testing Department when deciding to develop a new tyre?
"Market demands and potential trends in demand trends are first evaluated by our Product Managers, then discussed together with our marketing and sales colleagues. The various departments define all the specifications that the tyre must have. R&D, which is an active and primary part of the conception process of a new project together with our Motorcycle Experimentation Department, begins to evaluate the best way to obtain what we are asked for and then to experiment with it. There is a first phase of development and a second of reliability which can also require 600,000 km of tests. It takes about 24 months from a blank sheet of paper to the finished tyre ready to be sold. We must be fast and flexible, because the bikes themselves also evolve radically year after year".
Interview by Luca Bono