A Closer Look at Performance Tires
The last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the basics about tires, which should be helpful for those who never knew what the ID meant, or picking out your first set of tires. But what about the involved racer? For the weekend warrior, this stuff is old news, and kids play. For you, it’s the track and fresh sets of tires several times throughout the season, and you know full well what the numbers mean. For those who have graduated out of 101 well before we ever posted scribblies on a dry erase board, we have you covered too. Performance tires, or Ultra-High Performance (UHP) tires are designed for road and track use. Compared to your typical all-season passenger tire, they have low wide treads with fewer, smaller channels. This allows for maximum grip, but less in the ways of dispersing water when encountered. They also wear more quickly, as the rubber heats up and wears off onto the track.
There has always been a tradeoff between a car that is capable for road use and one that has maximum grip on the track. The folks at BF Goodrich think they have the golden bullet of UHP tires, in the all-new G-Force Rivals– a tire that is supposed to have superior performance to many of its own products as well as the competition, all while handling the less-than-sterile conditions of driving to and form the track on the open road.
If you are in the market for these tires, you likely have an active SCCA license, or a track-purposed car, complete with roll-cage an safety equipment. At the very least, you autocross. If you are not this active, a tire this aggressive is a little over your head.
To prove this point, we were shipped down by the BF Goodrich people to NOLA Motorsports Park. We embarked in a series of tests and exhibitions that felt more like a spot on a reality show than a tire test.
At any rate, we started on the skid pad, with a trio of autocross-ready Mazda Miatas. Each Miata had a different BF-G performance tire wrapped around the wheels. The first car was fitted the G-Force Sport Comp-2, one of their most popular tires. The Comp-2 is on the street side of the road/track spectrum, but not by much. The second car featured the Rivals, and the third car had the G-Force R1, their hardest-driving track car.
To exhibit the difference in tires, we were asked to keep the steering wheel locked in a left-hand turn, and work the throttle to create slippage, using that to steer. When you started coming too far out to the edge of the circle, you just lay off the throttle, and the car corrects itself. Both the Rival and the Comp-2 were able to correct the car, while there were a few dicey moments.
After this, we ventured to the autocross course, where four Subaru WRX STIs awaited us. The Rival was now stacked up against its potential competition, the Hankook Ventus R-S3 and the Toyo Proxes R1R. The fourth WRX was also fitted with the rivals. The idea was to get a feel for each, then come back to the original.
Who knows if it was because everyone was so nice to us, but we were inclined to the quickness with which the Rivals could change the direction of the car. In this course, the other cars (especially the Toyos) felt almost numb in changing directions. Getting back into the 4th car only backed that up.
The final stage was hopping out onto NOLA Motorsports Park’s two-mile track, at the helm of a Ford Mustang FR500. Three cars had the Rivals, while the other three had Falken RT-615L tires. This was to be a serious and daunting track experience. We were given helmets, comm. systems and even had to climb in through a roll cage. We would have instruction from an instructor, sitting shotgun. For Four miles (two laps), our fates were intertwined- his ability to instruct me and mine to translate instruction to steering inputs.
Once again, the Rivals were superior in changing direction. The Falkens felt somewhat numb. It was the final test to prove that these were superior road-track summer tires. Are they ideal for New England? Not really– you can’t safely drive more than 30 mph in the rain. But for southern, drier climes, its an ideal performance tire that we’ll see at a lot of autocrosses come this summer.