Street Tire Shootout

By Andy Hollis
Apr 15, 2016 | Honda | Posted in Tires & Wheels | From the June 2015 issue | Never miss an article

For motorsports enthusiasts, tires are the key ingredient connecting our beloved machines to the road. For the last decade, the biggest technology and performance advances have come at the pointy end of that spectrum: the extreme performance summer tire category.

These are tires that deliver amazing stick during aggressive maneuvers, but also have sufficient road manners for daily use in typical summer weather. They’re a cost-effective compromise, delivering almost as much grip as track-specific R-compound tires while having none of their harshness, short lifespans or lack of puncture resistance.

Whether you satisfy your g-load cravings on twisty canyon roads, the local road course or around the cones, these tires are your ticket to long-term enjoyment–for the competition set, we’re talking about tires legal for the SCCA Street and Street Touring classes as well as LeMons and ChumpCar endurance racing.

But which ones are the best for you? To answer just that, we gathered examples of all the latest offerings and put them through their paces in a variety of venues. First up is our autocross test.

A History of Conflict

Just like cars, tire models usually have a life cycle of about five to six years. After that span, they’re generally replaced by a new model designed for the same purpose.

But because the extreme category has become so popular, those tire designs are now getting tweaked on a one- or two-year basis. Many times the upgrade comes courtesy of a new compounding technology– often a silica variant–that improves durability and allows for more grip across wider temperature ranges.

At the same time, tire makers are also pushing the limits regarding what constitutes a 200-minimum-treadwear tire–the restriction most sanctioning bodies have in place.

We last tested this crop of tires two years ago, and the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival rose to the top. Since that time, Dunlop tweaked their Direzza ZII design with a Star Spec version. Hankook did the same with their Ventus RS3, though the official name has not changed–it’s unofficially known as the RS3V2 in the enthusiast community.

Bridgestone brought out the all-new RE-71R to supplant the RE-11 and RE-11A. Then there’s BFG’s new sibling for their Rival, known as the Rival-S. It will be sold alongside the original.

Each of these tires goes about its business in a different way. We designed our test not just to find out which one’s fastest on test day, but to elicit their unique characteristics so that you can decide which tire synergizes best with your own car, driving style and setup.

In the past, we’ve typically tested tires on small, light, front-drive cars sporting fully sorted suspensions and wide wheels. This provides an optimal environment for the tire to show its prowess.

We feel our method has bookended nicely with the comprehensive testing done by our friends at Tire Rack. They use heavy BMW 3 Series on narrow OE wheels–just like those running in the new SCCA Street classes. By viewing the data from both sets of tests, you can better match the results with your own application.

Field of Battle

We set up shop at the massive asphalt pad at Texas’s Mineral Wells Airport in early April. It was a mild, sunny day with ambient temps rising from 55 to 65 during our testing period. The road surface cleans up quickly, but it is old and a bit abrasive.

We’ve been testing here for years and have marked permanent skidpad and autocross courses. The latter is a simple loop affair, emphasizing handling over driver skill: a medium-speed slalom down one side, higher-speed offsets up the other, and a pair of constant-radius sweepers at each end.

The site is on a slope, though, so one sweeper is on-camber and the other falls off. As it turns out, the entries to these two corners reveal the biggest differences between tires tested.

Plan of Attack

Leading the charge for the test were drivers David Whitener and Andy Hollis, both multi-time national champion autocrossers and veterans of GRM tire tests. David lives near the site and has literally thousands of laps around the Mineral Wells permanent test course. As a result, he knows its every nuance.

The test vehicle for the day was the championship-winning, Street Touring R-prepped 1999 Mazda Miata of Michael and Kyung Wootton. The Woottons consigned their Miata to David for suspension development, and he’s already knocked a full second off the car’s lap times.

Because of his familiarity with both the car and the course, David served as our test’s expert, someone who could quickly extract maximum tire performance. Andy played the role of guest driver, examining each tire’s adaptability and ease of use. Note that the car’s setup was based around the Toyo Proxes R1R, which is a tremendously forgiving tire. For today’s test, all tires were in the 205/50R15 size and mounted on the 15x8-inch 6UL wheels made by 949 Racing. Tires were unshaved.

You can’t efficiently do a test like this without a small army. Kim Whitener worked the timers and recorded driver impressions, while Forrest Windecker at Texas Track Works handled the onsite mounting and balancing. After each set of runs, there was always a fresh set expertly mounted and waiting for us on the alternate wheels.

Gerry Terranova then stepped in to get tires installed quickly during post-run driver interviews. The crew ran like a well-drilled military unit.

Early Skirmishes

Our first hint of each tire’s performance came on the skidpad. When testing tires, we first run three laps in each direction to scrub off the mold release and awaken the cold rubber for duty.

To determine optimal tire-pressure ranges, we then run each tire around the circle under maximum load for three laps at time. We start at 40 psi and then drop pressures by 4 psi until performance drops off. We then go back to the indicated optimal pressure and retest to confirm the data point.

We measure performance strictly with a timer–no pyrometer–since we’ve found it provides more reliable results. We glean additional data from relative lap times between tires, a leading indicator of steady-state grip. Information about each tire’s heat tolerance also emerges as they endure heavy loads for a solid 30 seconds at a time–no respite. We cool them as needed with a water sprayer.

Once we have our ideal pressures, we move to the test course. For this day, we chose to do two-lap runs in sets of three for each driver. That put the total time in the typical 50-second autocross range, while allowing for split times to examine heat characteristics and mine for a flyer performance. The test course is fairly busy, so putting two blazing laps together is a challenge when drivers are running for hours.

In addition to retesting a control tire at the end of the day, we also inserted it into the middle. This verifies that the course or driver isn’t getting better throughout the long session, as can often be the case. We used the winner of our last test, the BFG g-Force Rival, as our control.

Fire at will!

BFGoodrich g-Force Rival

Despite handily winning our previous test across several sessions– autocross on asphalt, autocross on concrete, and laps on the road course–later reports from the field did not always agree with our results. Some Rival drivers had difficulty adjusting to the feel of the tire or matching it to their car’s setup. Others found it worked great, but only at certain sites and tracks.

It has found a loving home, though, among low-buck endurance racers and track day aficionados. They appreciate this tire’s long tread life and ability to easily deliver lap after lap of consistently fast performance. In the cone-dodging world, it has been quite polarizing: Some drivers love it, others curse it.

The last time we tested it, we loved this tire. However, upon mounting it on the tightly wound, well-balanced Miata, we started to appreciate the naysayers’ perspective. And because it served as our control tire, we got plenty of time to examine it.

On the skidpad, we could quickly find the Rival’s limit and keep it there. The Rival delivered the same times between 28 and 36 psi–the largest spread of any tire tested this time. The Rival was also unaffected by the heat buildup of continual lapping. Unfortunately, progress has left this guy behind: It was the slowest of all in sustained steady-state grip.

On the test course, both drivers struggled to make peace with this tire. They found it especially challenging to brake deep into the uphill sweeper after the fast run through the offsets. The Rival simply wanted to lock up.

Similarly, our drivers felt uncertain on the downhill run out of the slalom and into the bottom sweeper thanks to the required multitasking. They also had difficulty putting down the power in the offsets, as the rear wanted to over-rotate and the slalom rebound after each turn-in was hard to predict.

This unpredictability showed up in the results: Each driver struggled to put together two fast laps in a row. The single best lap times were consistent but also the slowest of the field.

Yokohama Advan AD08R

The Advan AD08R is the latest in a long succession of products that began with the AD07. This is the tire that proved Yokohama was back in the game.

On the skidpad, the AD08R appeared to be very pressureagnostic, turning similar lap times with inflations varying from 28 to 40 psi. After a few iterations, the Yokohama did start to exhibit some temperature sensitivity: Succeeding laps fell off a touch from the first. It was very predictable and easy to drive at the limit close to the cones. Final skidpad results landed it in the middle of the pack on average, but it delivered a few flyer laps that were among the best of the bunch.

That ease of use showed up again on the test course, where both drivers adapted quickly. Compared to the Rival, the Yokohama was better at putting down power and was much more intuitive in transitions, requiring way fewer mid-course corrections.

Still, our expert driver posted inconsistent lap times–although they were still fast. Our guest driver, who had significant prior experience with this tire, logged tightly grouped times. Ultimately, for each driver the tire was a little slower than the Rival on average, but it came out ahead on best run and best lap.

The biggest news regarding this tire may be its official treadwear rating: It only carries a 180 UTQG number. The AD08R can be used for events that still only require a treadwear of 140, but the trend lately has been upward for most rule makers. Although the AD08R feels like a 200-treadwear tire, its maker–unlike Hankook and Toyo–seems uninterested in rerating the rubber.

Based on our experience–we ran this tire in the 2014 Tire Rack One Lap of America to great effect–the Yokohama’s longevity falls near the Hankook RS3V2 and Dunlop ZII Star Spec range.

Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec

Here’s a tire with an interesting history. The brand is owned by Sumitomo in Asia, but the American distribution rights land in Goodyear’s portfolio. As such, new models and versions typically debut in the home market first, then hit shelves in the U.S. in a tweaked form and select sizes one year later.

Gearheads armed with Google Translate can usually know what to expect based on the info posted overseas, and Dunlop seems keen on frequent tweaks to stay near the top: The Z1, Z1 Star Spec, ZII and now ZII Star Spec have all arrived a year or so apart.

The line is known for super-responsive handling, small slip angles and somewhat abrupt breakaway characteristics. These properties reward the finesse driver who likes a willing dance partner, but punish those who like to throw a car around.

The Star Spec version of the ZII seems to have softened the blow a little on overdriving, allowing for more room to maneuver. It’s especially good at what industry experts call compound loading. This has nothing to do with tread compound and everything to do with multitasking at the in-between edges of the friction circle–where the tire is supporting large lateral and longitudinal loads. The Toyo R1R is another tire that does this extremely well, and the ZII is moving in that direction.

Along the way, however, the ZII Star Spec has also picked up some heat intolerance. We first saw it on the skidpad, where times increased along with the lap count.

Judicious use of the water sprayer was required to get times back in line. Still, we could never replicate those three fast skidpad laps we nailed in the very first 30 seconds of use. Instead, after spraying, we’d get one quick lap and two a touch slower. And even those first three flyers were only good enough to rank second to last in steady-state grip. Responsive on-course action is this tire’s forte.

Once they took to the test course, both drivers fell in love with the dynamics of this tire. It was a great partner in crime, seemingly directly connected to their inputs with no delay.

Its slalom control was the best of the bunch–not just with turn-in response, but predictable turn-back, meaning speed could easily be carried past the last cones in the slalom. Predictability and stability in the sweeper entries were also key to quick lap times. By the end, the Star Spec was the darling of the pre- 2015-generation tires, well beyond the Rival and AD08R in times.

Bridgestone RE-71R

Bridgestone is a large tire maker that has always had an interest in motorsports and highperformance tires–and at all levels, too. Throughout their history, they’ve veered in and out of the autocrossing world as their products and marketing plans synched up with our community.

Not long ago, they were top dog in this category with their RE-01R and RE-11 follow-up. Two years ago they released the updated RE-11A, but it didn’t quite get them back on top. As a result, for 2015 we have the all-new RE-71R.

In addition, they’re back with 18-wheeler event support crews and contract driver programs. Is this tire one that deserves all the hype? Oh yes. While it may or may not be the best tire for a given situation, it is certainly a player to be strongly considered.

The first signs came on the skidpad, where we suddenly dropped into the 9.6- and low-9.7-second range. However, like the Dunlop, this tire was very pressure-agnostic, producing similar results over a wide range. It also had some temperature sensitivity, but not nearly as much as the Dunlop.

After their runs on the practice course, both drivers came back smiling. David again praised the compound loading, and on a couple of flyer laps he found lots of time in the challenging sweeper entries. He also found more confidence in the slalom than he had on any other tire tested. Andy proclaimed the longitudinal grip–braking and acceleration–the best of the bunch, and this trait should suit high-horsepower cars nicely.

Another key point to note is the difference in our drivers’ times. On the other tires, David’s familiarity with the car and course constantly had him ahead by a sizable margin. This time, though, the gap shrank. This data point might mean that the Bridgestone is the most intuitive tire and covers up any handling quirks. Here’s how Andy summarized it: “All the goodness of the Dunlop, wrapped in a grippier compound.” And if you compare the two closely, they sure look the same from the outside: similar crowned profile and tread design. Coincidence?

BFGoodrich g-Force Rival-S

That original BFGoodrich Rival found some huge fans on track, but its reception among the autocross community was spotty. In particular, the Rival seemed to have issues with the rubber laid down by stickier R-compound tires and slicks. At a road race event, where different classes share a track over the course of a weekend, drivers have a few laps to lay down their own rubber. In autocross, this can’t happen as the classes are intermingled.

BFG responded by developing several alternate versions of its Rival and then inviting key SCCA national championship competitors to a test day held just after the Tire Rack SCCA National Championships–on the same courses, even. It was a stroke of brilliance from both a development and marketing standpoint: BFG came back with data where they needed it most, while those competitors left knowing how much time they’d gained.

What the drivers did not know was which tire would be put into production–and any further tweaks it might receive. We were part of that test in Lincoln, and we can now confirm that the new Rival-S was indeed the best of that bunch.

This tire’s forte is big grip–no, check that, massive grip–for a street tire. This became immediately apparent on the skidpad as it set a record, dipping slightly into the 9.4s. And while it never repeated that one cold-tire flyer, it did outpace the field with consistent 9.5s and low 9.6s. Like some of the others, it cared little about how much air was inside: Pressures ranging from 24 to 32 psi worked fairly similarly.

Feel at the limit is best described as rubbery. Those who have run on the Toyo R1R will find familiarity here, though the BFG’s breakaway is easier to predict, thus minimizing tire wear from overdriving.

Riding the circle was super easy, though the tire ran at larger slip angles than the Bridgestone. How big was the grip? Andy began to complain that the seat padding had bottomed out and the frame was now hurting his ribs.

On the test course, anticipation was high and the Rival-S delivered in spades for David. With the Miata set up for Toyos, he was able to extract gobs of hidden performance from the Rival-S, consistently lapping in the mid-to-high 23s. His full-course average was a solid second faster than on the Bridgestone, although his single-lap delta was only two-tenths.

Andy’s results were also consistent, but slower: low 24s across the board, but only a few tenths quicker than the RE-71R on average. The single-lap nod went to the Bridgestone.

Both drivers described the tire as extremely forgiving, very linear, and capable of doing everything well. If the RE-71R is a better ZII, then the Rival-S is a better Toyo R1R.

Who Won the War?

In many ways, the test was a stalemate. For sure the class of 2015 dominated, but each member did so in different ways. And those differences are what will eventually determine which one is right for you. The tires will also require different setups to extract maximum performance, some of which may be restricted by the rules in your area of the sport.

As we often say, testing on your own car is the only way to know for sure. But you should now be armed with enough info to make an educated guess on where to start.

People who are used to Dunlop ZII tires–and have cars set up for those tires– will likely prefer the Bridgestone RE-71R. Those who come from the looser Toyo Proxes R1R and Hankook RS3 camps will likely gravitate toward the Rival-S. The Rival-S undoubtedly showed the most potential, topping the time sheets for both of our drivers. We’ll continue to reevaluate both front-runners throughout the year.

Next up is track testing. Can the Rival- S stand up to time trials? How about the RE-71R? What about longer enduro competitions? Wet weather? Rim size and camber dependencies? All this and more as the testing season continues here at GRM. Stay tuned.

Not a subscriber? We'll be comparing these results to the newest crop of rubber in the next issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Subscribe now.

Tire Test Results


949 Racing
(949) 716-3111

(512) 472-4977

BFGoodrich Tires
(877) 788-8899

Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations
(866) 775-6480

Dunlop Tires
(800) 321-2136

Texas Track Works
(817) 926-8863

Yokohama Tire Corporation
(800) 722-9888

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View comments on the GRM forums
mazdeuce PowerDork
4/15/16 4:08 p.m.

Thanks for the testing Andy. It's too bad the Maxxis wasn't available for these tests. I think a lot of us are wondering how that stacks up.
The real question is.....which tire for One Lap?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/15/16 4:15 p.m.

Coming up in the next issue: Testing the 245/40R15 Maxxis against the rest of the class.

mazdeuce UltimaDork
4/15/16 4:45 p.m.

Buying a Mustang before the memes hit, testing the new tire before we ask, it's like you're from the future.

Bobzilla UltimaDork
4/15/16 5:18 p.m.

wasn't this last years test?

Robbie GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
4/15/16 7:51 p.m.
Bobzilla wrote: wasn't this last years test?

It says from the June 2015 issue, so yes, I think so.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/15/16 7:52 p.m.
Bobzilla wrote: wasn't this last years test?

Yes, the one that we just posted is from June 2015. (The issue date is in the story header.)

The issue that's in the mail contains a follow-up tire test (track), while the issue after that will have an autocross tire test.

rslifkin HalfDork
4/15/16 10:23 p.m.

Can we get a test of the Kumho V720 against these at some point? Only thing I know about them is they seem sticky and the set on a friend's Miata is probably the loudest set of tires I've ever heard until you get above 50. Think mud tire levels of noise, but it sounds like wheel bearings (it isn't).

WildScotsRacing HalfDork
4/16/16 3:58 a.m.

I'm waiting for the track test! And still wondering which of these tires is the best choice for a track oriented front driver with an open diff. Thoughts?

slammed200 New Reader
5/3/16 3:34 p.m.

Can't wait to hear Andy's track tire test!

jstein77 UltraDork
5/3/16 3:38 p.m.

Spoiler alert - RE-71R is still #1.

The Hoff
The Hoff UltraDork
5/3/16 4:01 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: Coming up in the next issue: Testing the 245/40R15 Maxxis against the rest of the class.

Many interest. Much excite.

WOW Really Paul?
WOW Really Paul? MegaDork
5/3/16 5:24 p.m.
rslifkin wrote: Can we get a test of the Kumho V720 against these at some point? Only thing I know about them is they seem sticky and the set on a friend's Miata is probably the loudest set of tires I've ever heard until you get above 50. Think mud tire levels of noise, but it sounds like wheel bearings (it isn't).

They'd probably delaminate......

Streetwiseguy PowerDork
5/3/16 6:39 p.m.

I have 4 205/50 15 American Racers here, and more coming for the Chump race. We are going to a club race to test June 4, and will have a set of new old stock Rivals mounted, along with the ARs for back to back testing.

Say, you should pay me to write a test...Send me a whole bunch of sets of all the 200 tires, and I'll test them all with an Integra on a lovely road course. I will even keep the leftover tires and keep you all updated on how they mile out.

Sounds like a good deal, yes?

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