Street Tire Shootout: Class of 2016 Part 2

By Andy Hollis
Sep 12, 2016 | Posted in Tires & Wheels | From the Aug. 2016 issue | Never miss an article

Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that this test is from our archives. To get the latest tire analysis, subscribe to Grassroots Motorsports today.

If tire development stopped in the 1950s, today we’d all be riding around on big balloon tires sporting obscenely wide whitewalls. Sure, we’d look all jazzy, but we’d be giving up the performance that we now take for granted.

Want to appreciate how far the technology has come? Take a look at the market segment spurring some of the industry’s most intense development: extreme-performance summer tires. This category includes the 200-treadwear rubber so often found at track days and autocrosses. Call it the sharp end of the stick.

The segment recently welcomed two new contenders: BFGoodrich tweaked its g-Force Rival-S for 2016, and Maxxis released its Victra VR-1 in a superwide 245/40R15. Before this, only R-compound race rubber came in that size.

Has the bar been raised once more? During our autocross test from last year, the Rival-S just barely beat out the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R for top honors. The BFGoodrich posted a top lap time of 23.6 seconds, while the Bridgestone trailed by just two-tenths.

Time to see if there’s been a change in the status quo.

Testing Breakdown

The tires: We’re testing the widest available 15-inch sizes: 225/45R15 for the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S and 245/40R15 for the Maxxis Victra VR-1. Our control tire is the 2015 version of the Rival S.

The car: Once again, our test vehicle is Michael Wootton’s nationally competitive 1999 Mazda Miata. David Whitener prepared the car, and Kyung Wootton drove it to the Street Touring R Ladies autocross national title last year.

The wheels: The Wootton Miata wears 9-inch-wide wheels, the widest allowed under the class rules. Texas Track Works in Fort Worth mounted our tires on 15×9-inch 949 Racing 6UL wheels.

The site: We’re back at the Mineral Wells Airport, where we have a standard test course and skidpad permanently marked on the medium-grip asphalt. Our autocross course is simple to drive but includes all the basic elements: a slalom, offsets, and a pair of on/off-camber sweepers.

Setting pressures: We’re again using a skidpad to determine the optimum air pressure for each tire. To start, we warm up the first set of tires with a few laps in each direction. After that, we reset the pressure.

Then, we time three hard, clockwise laps around the skidpad. We repeat this process, each time dropping the pressure by 4 psi. Once we narrow down the psi range with the fastest time, we run several sets of laps in the other direction; this final step verifies our pressure and allows us to dial it in within 2 psi. Start over for the next set of tires.

Autocross testing: After allowing the tires to cool, we can move to our autocross runs: three consecutive laps with each tire. A single lap here takes about 24 seconds, so this format should show how each tire reacts to heat buildup.

The drivers: Testing tires requires consistent driving and sensitivity to vehicle response. David Whitener has countless hours of test time at this venue with this car-plus national titles to his credit-so he’s serving as the primary tester. Andy Hollis is acting in the “guest driver” role. As it turns out, both drivers will have similar relative experiences on each tire.

BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S (2015 model)

Baseline best time: 23.7 sec.

Introduced last year as a separate model from the original Rival, the Rival S features a different compound that heats up quickly and delivers much more grip. It has found great success in autocross, especially among cars that require larger tire sizes. We used it as our status-quo control tire for this test.

On the skidpad, this tire worked well over a wide variety of pressures. However, a noticeable change in feel–plus a mild performance bump–occurred as we moved from 32 to 28 psi: The car became a bit more neutral, and grip increased. As we lowered the pressures further, the feel stayed the same but the laps slowed a tick. Time to dodge some cones. David and Andy had already driven this control tire extensively, so they both felt very comfortable with it on the autocross course. Grip was outstanding, but they had to slightly lead the car into each turn. This was especially important in the slalom, where inputs had to be early and correct.

Conversely, our rear-drive Miata tolerated a bit of slip angle in the rear, allowing more flexibility in power application.

BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S (2016 model)

Best time: 23.6 sec.

The 2015 Rival S’s main competitor in this arena is Bridgestone’s Potenza RE-71R–assuming it’s available in your size. (Bridgestone has focused on smaller applications, although that lineup will expand throughout the year.) When the two tires compete head to head, the RE-71R typically gets the nod due to its more responsive handling characteristics.

But BFGoodrich has countered for 2016 with a new Rival S. The compound, tread design and all other materials remain the same, but the company has altered the internal construction of the tire’s smaller sizes to increase steering response.

We found the revised Rival S to be even more pressure-agnostic on the skidpad than the 2015 version. Anything from 36 psi down to 24 yielded the same average lap time, and the car was more neutral right from the start. The winning pressure–just barely better than the rest–was 28 psi.

Compared to the 2015 Rival S, the new version required a conscious effort when making corrections; slow hands were paramount. Both versions had similar breakaway at the limit, though: gradual and easy to recover.

The difference in steering response became readily apparent on the test course. Andy had to abort his first run, as too-quick hands sent the Miata into the cones. After the Mulligan attempt, his first two timed passes were quick, and then he nailed what would be his quickest slalom of the day on the third pass.

What did our expert driver make of the new-for-2016 Rival S? “That’s a faster tire, but not as much fun,” David said. He likes to hang it out a bit, but the new construction rewards precision. Both drivers still picked up a couple tenths compared to the 2015 model, and that’s on a car tuned for the earlier tire.

Maxxis Victra VR-1

Best time: 24.1 sec.

When Maxxis entered the DOT R-comp market two years ago with the RC-1, they gave the market a durable, inexpensive tire. And while the RC-1 performed near the front of the field, it didn’t quite reach the pointy end. Even so, Maxxis’s value-oriented solution resonated with a large number of enthusiasts and has enjoyed brisk sales. Will the new VR-1 take the same approach in the 200-treadwear segment?

On the skidpad, the VR-1 was clearer about its optimal pressure than either of the two Rival S versions. Any pressures in the 30s produced slower lap times than pressures in the 20s, and 26 psi gave us the best results.

The feel of the tire did not change appreciably throughout the process, though more grip was readily apparent in feel when the lap times were lower. Breakaway of the VR-1 was quite progressive, but once the tire did fully give way, it had a hard time regaining grip.

On the autocross course, the Maxxis was not quite up to the pace of the Rival S, falling a few tenths behind even the 2015 model. David loved the progressiveness of the tire, though: “Maxxis really got the fun factor right.” Its steering response made it intuitive and easy to place, landing it somewhere between the two Rivals.

BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S (2015 model)

Baseline retest

Back-to-back comparisons are always the most telling, so we bracketed our day’s work with a retest of our 2015 Rival S control tire. These runs revealed that some surface and/or driver improvements had crept into our results– a fact of life when testing tires. Times for the 2015 Rival S were now matching the revised 2016 version. (The changing conditions didn’t affect our evaluation of the Maxxis, though.)

Before calling it a day, we decided to do one more back-to-back comparison between the two BFGoodrich tires. Those final runs did, in fact, back up our earlier relative results.

Drawing Conclusions

BFGoodrich has developed a clear winner by revising the Rival S’s construction. On small cars, the new version is a couple tenths faster and easier to drive–but it will require some familiarization laps for drivers transitioning from the 2015 version. Those who have been running the Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R should be able to adapt rather quickly, though, and may find it more to their liking.

While the Maxxis Victra VR-1 is not the fastest autocross tire, it certainly delivers on the fun factor. Our testing also showed that it will last longer than the faster options, making it a potentially strong budget solution for many regional competitors who want one set of tires to last a full season’s worth of events and street use.

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949 Racing:, (949) 716-3111, wheels

BFGoodrich Tires:, (877) 788-8899, tires

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations:, (800) 668-0345, tires

Maxxis:, (800) 4-MAXXIS, tires

Texas Track Works:, (817) 926-8863, tire mounting

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View comments on the GRM forums
9/13/16 6:07 a.m.

In reply to Andy Hollis:

Would have liked to have seen the RE71 in this test, but I totally get why it's absent. I'm running the 2015 Rival right now and have found it to be a super sticky setup, without the propensity to slide that other people report. My big complaint is that they require so much steering angle and are very numb in both feeling and noise - you say the '16s are more responsive, can you give a little more detail about that?

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