Story by Paul Eklund
Photos by Chris Miller
The only form of motorsport
that’s tougher on tires than
drifting is rally racing. Competitors
need tires that can
survive some of the harshest conditions
in the world while still delivering tremendous
bite. Oh, and they have to last long
enough that a shoestring team can make
their budget for the competition year.
Maxxis has entered the rally market
with the new Victra R19, although these
competition tires have already been
available in other markets, such as South
America. This chunk of rubber and steel
could possibly become the savior of
amateur rallying in North America just
by being available and fairly affordable.
You see, the American rally tire market
isn’t exactly awash with options. The
current standard is the venerable BFGoodrich
g-Force Rally Tire–yes, that’s its
official name–a progeny of the Michelin/
Uniroyal-Goodrich merger of 1988.
Once shipping is factored in, figure
about $280 per corner for a 15-inch size.
The new Maxxis? You’re looking at
$220 to $240 per tire depending on
size, and if you place the order directly
through Maxxis, they’ll pay the shipping.
The Maxxis Victra R19 comes in
both hard and soft compounds as well
as several popular sizes: 205/65R15,
195/65R15 and a really narrow
185/65R15. Based on experience, we’d
recommend the soft compound for wet,
muddy, cold or loamy-earth situations.
They can overheat and wear quickly in
warm or hot conditions, especially on
gravel or hardpack.
The Gravel Laboratory
Is the Victra really a game changer?
Time to put it to the test.
But first, we needed a benchmark–the
reigning BFGoodrich g-Force Rally Tire.
Our set, like so many out there in the
field, had a few stage miles on it, too. All
of the tires tested were hard-compound
models–typical for a weekend warrior–in
the ever-popular 205/65R15 size.
The test car was a currently competitive
2008 Subaru STI Super Productionclass
monster with full Cusco differentials.
All the tires rode on Team Dynamic
Pro Rally 15-inch, gravel-spec wheels.
The driver was former national rally
champion Paul Eklund, and sitting in the
silly seat was current Super Production
champion co-driver Karen Jankowski,
who has navigated for many top drivers
and has also run events like the Targa
Newfoundland and La Carrera Classic.
The test site was a well-known location
near the home of the Oregon Trail Rally.
We were driving on thick alluvial
gravel, rounded rock polished smooth
from millennia of rolling around the
bottom of a mighty river. The gravel
littered the ground as far as the eye
could see. Although the day was dry, the
ground was saturated and water gathered
in every rut. Skirting muck and puddle,
our short course featured a medium
straight, a major sweeper, a couple of
chicanes, and a serpentine route back to
the start/finish at the sweeping corner.
Tire temperatures began low on this
brisk winter’s day, and the numerous
puddles and water splashes kept any
heat from really building in the tread.
We were comparing hard-compound
rally tires, but it was clear that it was a
day best suited to soft tires for optimal
results. The max tire temps we saw were
a mere 70 degrees measured with an
Traction vs. Transition
Both tire models feature similar
tread designs, matching rectangular
tread blocks with a hollow center slit.
However, it was apparent from the
start that the tire engineers at Maxxis
thought of traction and bite first and
nuance and transition second. The two
rows of traction blocks are linear and
not staggered, giving the Victra virtual
paddles for gripping and tearing at the
road when moving forward. The Victra
is a directional tire, so the angled blocks
bite hard and bring the car quickly out
of a slide.
At speed, we were immediately
impressed with the huge amount of sideways
grip the Victra offered. The marketing
literature says the manufacturer
beefed up the outer edge for puncture
resistance and long wear characteristics,
but we would add “tremendous side grip”
to that list of benefits.
We couldn’t see our giant rooster tails
when we launched–the timekeepers
and photographers reported them to
us–but we could feel the tires bite down
and hold. It was obvious that these are
the real deal.
The one drawback we did note–and it
was reflected in the split times–was that
the Maxxis was a bit less predictable than
the BFGoodrich. The slides were not as
consistent, so transitions from sliding in
one direction to another were sometimes
abrupt or interrupted. We think with
more seat time on the Victra, we could
overcome that tendency and turn it into
more of an advantage.
When it came time to change tires and
run on the BFGoodrich, we truly expected
the trusty old shoe to be the better tire.
Although the tire transitioned beautifully
into and out of the corners, the BFG
simply lacked the grip of the Victra. We
typically found the car a full foot wider
off the apex in each corner. Again, a quick
switch in driving technique and turn-in
timing “fixed” the positioning, but the
extra tire spin and slip raised our run times.
The top lap times were nearly identical
between the two tires–which is a bit odd
since they felt so different. The best run on
the Victra was 36.3 seconds. The best on the
BFGoodrich was 36.4. The Victra times did
vary a bit more from run to run, and the split
times favored the end of the sweeper onto the
straight. In other words, the Victra seemed to
give up a bit on the tighter turn and chicanes.
Still, they were just as fast as the BFGs overall.
Reading the Results
We saw two primary reasons for the results.
The Victra tread design contains two rows of
purely lateral tread blocks, which can really
help traction in a straight line. The difference
was evident in our rooster tails on launch.
That hinted at the second and probably biggest
reason why the Victra nudged the BFGoodrich
in our test: The gaps in the Victra
R19 tread around the blocks are wider–about
1.2mm–and they self-clean the mud and dirt
from the tread much better than the BFG. By
not loading up with mud, the tire is better
able to grab and bite the ground and gravel.
So, which tire is for you? If you run a
high-powered car, we think the Victra may
give you the edge. However, a lower-powered
car may benefit from the BFGoodrich’s consistent
Either way, the American rally competitor
has the benefit of another readily
available tire option.
BFGoodrich Tires Racing
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