Tires, they are arguably one of the most important parts of any vehicle. You could have 1,000 horsepower and brakes the size of satellites, but without the proper tire to transfer all of that to the ground, it all means absolutely nil. So, how do you choose the right tire? There are hundreds of tires out there, so choosing one can be a daunting task. There are tires engineered for low rolling resistance and better gas mileage. But let’s be honest here, BFGoodrich didn’t fly me all the way to New Orleans to drive around in a Prius and see how many MPG’s I could get.
So off to Cajun country I went, to try their latest offering; The Rival. Don’t let the name fool you though, it is, (and forgive the corniness here) absolutely unrivaled. More on that later. They put me up at a luxurious Five Star Hotel within spitting distance of Bourbon Street, and speaking of Bourbon, the libations were free flowing the evening before the event. After a leisurely afternoon of roaming around Bourbon Street, and a fantastic dinner at Chef Arnaud’s, it was time to hit the sack and pray for no hangovers the next morning.
All too quickly, the wake-up call rang and our press group was off to the newly redone NOLA Motorsports Park just outside New Orleans. I didn’t know what to expect, but once I saw the cars we would be driving, I was pleasantly surprised and excited. After an excellent breakfast and an informational presentation, I was led out to the first test. I was stuck in a helmet and thrown into a Ford Mustang FR500S, essentially a factory race-ready Mustang, complete with cage and all the racey-go-fast bits. Paired with an instructor I went out of the long and challenging road course and got to compare the BFG Rivals vs. the Falken Azenis RT615. After 2 laps with the Rivals I came in with a base in mind before jumping into an identical Mustang, outfitted with the Falkens. Soon after the first turn, I could already tell that the Rivals were something special. Understeer was much more predominant with the Falkens, and overall grip was significantly reduced. I missed apexes left and right. Going from the fantastic grip of the Rivals to the not so great grip of the Falkens, It felt like my raced prepped Mustang was replaced with a V6 convertible that was rented at the airport. The clever engineering that was presented to us in that morning’s briefing became readily apparent at this moment.
Driving Ultra High Performance tires on a racecar, of course was going to feel great with all that weight loss and downforce. Unfortunately though, not everyone has the cash to spend on one of these, so how do these tires compare on a road car? The next test, answered that question rather quickly. I hopped into a BMW E46 M3, and let her rip on a tight autocross course that was setup on the paddock. The course was designed with increasing and decreasing radius turns, and a slalom at the end. Once again, the Rivals were up first. I was surprised with amount of grip and the predictability of these tires, even on a street car. Understeer was not a factor and braking was substantially better as compared to the Hankook Ventus R-S3. The design of the extreme tread-edge was apparent here, basically the tread block extends onto the sidewall of the tire, increasing grip when the tire rolls in the turn. Slip angle in the Rivals is minimal, producing an immediate and direct steering feel that simply, was not found on any of the competitors’ tires.
Up next was the skidpad with some Playboy Cup Mazda Miatas. This test was simple and meant to show where the Rivals fit in the BFG tire lineup. 3 cars were outfitted with the successful BFG Comp 2, Rival, and R1 tires. The Comp 2 pulled 1.24Gs in the skid-pad, while the Rivals pulled in about 1.4 and the R1 a little more than that. The only thing that I can say about this test, was that Rival is pretty much a streetable slick tire. The difference from the Comp 2s was very apparent, while very comparable to the R1 slick version.
The last event of the day was another autocross, this time, in Subaru WRX STI’s. The tires being compared on this test were the Toyo Proxies R1R, and the Hankook Ventus R-S3. This test was meant to show the tires are just as effective on an All-Wheel Drive as well as Rear-Wheel Drive platforms. Once again, braking was better with the Rivals, as was overall grip through the corners. Being the last group of the day to do the Subaru test, we got to see how well each of the tires wear after a day of aggressive press drivers thrashing these things around. The Rivals went around the track 40% more laps than the other two, yet were still in noticeably good shape for another day of thrashing. The Hankooks were slightly worse but still in fair condition, although grip did suffer as apparent in the test. The Toyos fared the worst. The tread blocks were folded over and this tire had the worst grip around the track. The rubber was down to the wear bars and probably not good enough to be driven home safely.
BFGoodrich brought me to New Orleans to show me something special. A tire that promises faster and more consistent lap-times, improved braking, and incredible traction. After a full day of aggressive driving, I am a believer. The BFGoodrich Rival is unmatched in the Ultra High Performance market, and definitely a tire worth looking at if you plan on doing any track time that requires a DOT tire with a UTQG rating of 140 or more. Now I do have one thing to say about these tires, they are not meant for wet conditions, so I don’t particularly recommend these for your daily driver, which is the only reason why I wouldn’t put them on my car. However, if you own a dedicated set of wheels for track use, then I recommend the BFG Rival as your go-to tire for track events. The tires are available exclusively through TireRack.com, and they are absolutely worth every penny.