Drives: E92 M3,X5M,F30 335
Join Date: Jan 2010
Originally Posted by SUVETR
Lots of other stuff out there. Maybe Tristan will chime in with his thoughts too.
Just returned from the BFG Rival launch event in New Orleans at the NOLA track. That was just about the most fun I've had at any event like this. All the fun of a SoloPro school, with none of the work! Sitting on a plane with a 3-hour flight, so read on for the big brain dump. If you "TL;DR" folk want to skip to the end, it's cool.
The stats, per BFG themselves:
- 15 sizes ranging from 15" to 20"
- Designed…AND MADE...in the USofA
- Same compound all the way through
- 7/32" tread depth off the shelf. (They haven't tested shaving)
- Asymmetric, non-directional
- Unapologetically optimized for DRY pavement
- Supposedly still good in damp/wet but not so good for standing water
- Angled sides on the tread blocks to load better across the surface of the tire
- < 265s will have two grooves. 265+ will have three.
- Super-stiff sidewall insert plys (verified on unmounted tire…more than Dunlop and WAY stiffer than an RS3)
- New plies across the face to resist ballooning at high speed.
- Tread compound goes a long way down the sidewall so you stay on the good stuff
Session 1: STI medium autocross
We started the day driving bone-stock STIs on a medium-sized autocross track on asphalt. We got two runs on the BFGs, two runs on Hankook RS3s, two runs on Toyo R1Rs, and then two more on the BFGs. Kevin Dietz mentioned that he thought the car with Rivals on it felt like it had aftermarket springs. I agree. The car was MUCH more responsive than the RS3s and on another planet from the Toyos in terms of feel and feedback.
Two other things became immediately clear: The Rival recovered from mistakes MUCH quicker than any street tire I've ever driven. Stock STIs are nose-heavy and have quite a bit of understeer, so this was easy to test! As soon as you fixed the problem (too much steering, too much brake, too much gas, whatever), the car got back on line almost instantly.
Second, the wear. The tires were new at the beginning. Everybody kinda chuckled when we saw the Toyo on a Subaru. We knew it would be bad in that situation. But after ~30 runs, the tires were not only missing a bunch of tread on the shoulders but were graining BADLY across the whole width. The RS-3s were starting to display their usual disappearing sipes on the shoulders and slight feathering on the tread blocks. Just as you'd expect. But the BFGs showed almost no visible wear. Couldn't believe it.
We were monitoring tire temps pretty closely between runs. No pyrometer, but I'll claim my hands are actually relatively well-calibrated for a 100-140 degree range. (trained barista… ). It was a cool morning and nothing got SUPER hot. The Toyos were probably in the 130-140 range and the shoulder was hotter. The Hankooks were notably cooler across the surface, maybe 120ish, but the shoulder was pretty hot…maybe still in the 140 range. The BFG had 50% more runs on it, but it was still cooler than the Hankook. Maybe 115? But the shoulder was only a little warmer than the main part. The tire clearly distributes the load better across the whole tire.
Session 2: MX-5 Cup on Skid Pad
This was in MX-5 Cup cars from Skip Barber. We compared the BFG Comp 2 (their "Ultra-High Performance" tire) and R1S to the Rival. Not too much to report here, except how stable the Rival was and again how wide the traction window was. There was a significant ridge running down the middle of the skidpad, and the Rival handled it with much less drama/correction than either of the other two tires. They had iPads in the car and I sustained about 1.15 on the asphalt. But that's not terribly meaningful.
Session 3: E46 M3 on large autocross
Here's where my mind was blown. Stock E46 M3s. Two runs on Rivals, two runs on RS3s, and one final run on the Rivals. Mostly a fast, flowing course with good transitions, a couple decreasing radius turns into really slow corners. I know BMWs on Hankooks, and I'd shaken off the winter cobwebs on the STIs. The hosts had made it clear they didn't expect us to baby the cars, so I was ready to see what these things could do. Then Hayward Wagner pulled out a couple stop watches as we watched Ann and Andy Hollis take the first runs...and it was game on.
It was difficult to tell whether the BFG had more ultimate lateral grip. If you set up the corner right, the Hankook seemed like it still had great grip and dug out of increasing radius sweepers well. The BFG was maybe a little better in longitudinal grip, had MUCH better initial feedback, and required less "leading" the car. We didn't have any proper slaloms, but there were some good transitions and I think the Rival will be easier to slalom, which is a complaint I've always had about the RS3.
But the #1 thing for me was the breadth of the peak and the ability to recover from mistakes on the Rival. I've also always had some trouble entering decreasing radius corners on the RS3s. I blew several corners in each car (some intentionally…some not so much!). The RS3 behaved as I remembered. Once the front tires let go, they're gone, leaving me feeling like I'd just totally blown the run as I try to suppress a string of four-letter words and pray I don't hit the outside wall. Overcooking a corner on the Rival still required some corrective action, of course. But as soon as you got the speed down or straightened the wheel, the car *immediately* came back into shape. Just about the time the four-letter words started to surface, the problem was already fixed and the other half of my brain was kicking myself for not being on the gas! It felt like losing one or two tenths instead of five or six.
We worked the M3's HARD. And we were the third of four groups to do so. I was hitting the rev-limit in two places and intentionally stuffing it into corners to see what would happen. The brakes were already smoking when I got out of the Rival car, and I was only the fourth one in it. (For the record, they were already soft when I got in…despite what anyone else claims! I blame it on Andy and Junior…) Shortly after that, they faded completely and the car was driven away to cool off. But once again, the RS3s were warmer with shoulders that were much hotter and had disappearing tread. The Rivals were starting to show wear, but still had a smooth surface, with almost no feathering and just a little shoulder wear.
Session 4: FR500S track session
I've not been this giddy walking up to a car in a while. Or this terrified. Full-blown, race-prepped spec racer Shelbys. Three with Rivals, and three with Falken Azenis. Yup…Falkens. That was a bit of a head-scratcher. But <shrug> it's a big loud Mustang with a cage and a wing. Where do I sign up?
Less than two laps on each tire. I really wish I could say anything useful at all. Unfortunately, I hadn't studied the layout at all before the event, and I quickly discovered this track has ZERO elevation and NO good landmarks. We weren't given a warm-up or cool-down lap, and my instructor's headset (which seemed plenty loud in the pits) was barely audible over the V8. Call 'em excuses if you want, but I was in no position to see what the tires could do. I spent all my energy trying to find the next braking zone and apex before I got there, which was surprisingly hard. I started pushing just a little on my last lap on the Falkens, but even that wasn't much at all. It was all over much too quickly. Boo-hoo.
It seems like a really fun track that flows well…you just have to know where it goes before you get there. But I can say that those Mustangs are really sweet. Surprisingly easy to drive, despite being a big car with a big V8 on 245 street tires! Sure, it had plenty of power, but it wasn't overwhelming or difficult to modulate. If I'd known the track, I might have been reasonably comfortable with the car in just a lap or two. It seemed very forgiving, it looks bad-ass, and it sounds amazing. Want.
STS/STC PIXIE DUST?
This will be interesting to watch. I still think it is possible that the Toyo R1R might be the tire to have here. The Rival will be offered in 15" sizes. A 205 and one other, IIRC. But it remains to be seen whether it will work as well on a ~2000 lb car. It will almost certainly be easier to drive and less mushy than the R1R or the RS3. But faster? Hmmm…no way to know. Everybody seemed to agree that the answer wasn't obvious. BFG said they had a B-Spec Honda Fit and a Spec Miata that they had been using for testing. But it is pretty easy to see that 15" tires are starting to go the way 13" and 14" tires went some years ago. The market is clearly in 17"-20" tires on 2500-3500 lb cars. So that's where the R&D budgets are being spent, and that's what we drove today.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER NEW TIRES?
Dunlop Direzza Z2: We didn't get to drive the Z2 because there supposedly weren't enough available yet. At risk of being incredulous in the face of amazing generosity, that seems hard to believe. A bunch of TireRack folk were there, and I've been seeing lots of form posts from folks who have received their first order. They couldn't find three sets to bring? ORLY?
I have some conspiracy theories as to why we didn't drive on them, but it really doesn't matter. We'll have to wait for the final answer. BFG claimed that "some experienced drivers" ran both tires on an MX-5 Cup car yesterday and the BFG was a full second faster than the Z2. I know Andy Hollis was one of those drivers, though I don't know if those were his lap times. Andy did tell me that he thought the BFG certainly was better on track. The Dunlop felt more edgy and less confident at speed. He did not reveal whether he also got to autocross it.