New BFGoodrich g-Force Rival - Testing 1, 2, 3, 4!
By D. Brian Smith
Photography: Courtesy of BFGoodrich
Recently, Redline Review visited New Orleans for the first time. BFGoodrich invited a rather large contingent of automotive scribes from disparate parts of North America, including the good old U.S.A., Canada and Latin America. We were all there for the launch of the new g-Force Rival Tire to discover firsthand how the Rival performs during very spirited driving.
We all arrived on Tuesday afternoon in New Orleans. To give proper time perspective, this was the first Tuesday of the two Tuesdays leading up to the Super Bowl. I departed the plane and made my way to the ground transportation/baggage claim area of New Orleans airport and was surprised to hear my name being paged. "Brian Smith, please make your way to baggage claim turnstile E." As I hadn't checked any bags, I figured perhaps someone from BFGoodrich might be at the airport to collect me and take me to the hotel where I would be staying. In fact, I was already beginning to think that the E in turnstile stands for 'Excellent'. Sure enough, there was a tall gentleman in a chauffeur's uniform standing there with a white placard that read 'Brian Smith' and said BFGoodrich up in the right hand corner.
This happenstance reminded me of that Michael Jordan commercial, where this white middle-aged Michael Jordan keeps showing up at places like airports and restaurants, in which the V.I.P. treatment to celebrities like Michael Jordan -- the pro basketball star is customary. I half expected the chauffeur's face to be crestfallen, when I arrived on the scene, since he was probably expecting some action movie star or better yet world number 1 pro tennis player Brian Smith, as opposed to someone like me, an automotive scribe with a crooked smile and an almost legendary lead right foot when behind the wheel of a high performance automobile. I was brought back to earth when I learned that I would be sharing the limo ride with a fellow automotive journalist. The chauffeur actually smiled broadly at both of us. I shook our driver's hand, introduced myself and then introduced myself to the chap who would be riding in the limo with me.
Unlike me, Ricardo Rodriguez-Long is a celebrity, especially in Latin America. He's an Automotive Editorial TV & Radio host and has his own production company, Garage Latino (www.GarageLatino.com). During the drive to the hotel, Ricardo and I began to get to know each other. He is one of many great people that I met on this press junket, but I digress.
The Meet & Greet
Tuesday evening, our contingent of BFGoodrich folks and media moguls met in the courtyard of the Ritz Carlton Hotel where we were staying for a nice cocktail reception. There we all had the opportunity to become acquainted with all the folks involved with this exciting BFGoodrich Rival Tire Launch and get an idea of what we'd be doing the following day at NOLA Motorsports Park. We were also divided up into five different driving groups. Fittingly, I was put in the Green group. Everyone knows that Green Means Go, and that's just what I'd be doing the following day at the newest road course in the country, NOLA Motorsports Park.
Of course, Tuesday night's festivities didn't end with a cocktail party. A very short stroll away from the Ritz Carlton Hotel cocktail reception was our group's fine Cajun dining destination, Arnaud's Restaurant, located on Bourbon Street. While we enjoyed the exquisite gustatory delights of real Cajun fare, like seafood jambalaya and Cajun spice seafood, a genuine New Orleans three-piece band played in the background. To end our New Orleans evening with the right sort of genuine ambiance, many of us walked off a small portion of our dinner by strolling up and down Bourbon Street, before adjourning early to our hotel rooms to get a good night's sleep in preparation for the day ahead of high-performance driving and tire testing.
NOLA Motorsports Park (www.nolamotor.com)
Located a scant 14 miles from downtown New Orleans, NOLA Motorsports Park is the new world class, state-of-the-art, high-tech auto racing venue in North America. The road course, go-cart tracks, skidpad areas, autocross courses and supporting facilities are all brand spanking new. The pavement surfaces where we conducted all four of our driving/tire performance tests are in perfect condition. We're talking the sort of tarmac that would be the envy of any Formula 1 race driver/race team.
Before taking part in what would amount to four different driving opportunities in four different kinds of enthusiast automobiles, we enjoyed an abundant breakfast that even included some of those tasty little New Orleans beignets at the NOLA Motorsports club house. Despite the fact that we would all be putting our collective digestive tracts to extreme stress on the various NOLA tracks -- road course, autocross and skidpad -- we all pretty much ate huge breakfasts. In my case, I figured I could digest all the food during our orientation, which occurred right after eating at that early morning hour.
Several key members of BFGoodrich's knowledgeable staff spoke to us about the new g-Force Rival tire, from BFGoodrich tire engineers, public relations employees, marketing mavens and BFGoodrich's resident professional racecar driver and tire tester. We received a thorough perspective on what makes these new Rival radial tires so special, which gave me the notion that I wanted to see how good they really are by driving them.
How the BFG g-Force Rival Sticks To the Tarmac
"The Rival complements a successful BFGoodrich launch of the g-ForceTM Sport Comp-2TM ultra- high performance street tire, which was introduced in February 2012. Unlike the mostly street driven g-Force Sport COMP-2, the g-Force Rival was designed for track level abuse while providing drivability on the street. The g-Force Rival is predictable, allowing drivers to turn faster lap times1, and turn heads on the street. Highlight features include:
• Razor-sharp reflexes - The Performance Racing CoreTM (PRC) with a reinforced internal structure reduces sidewall flex for instant steering response.
• Designed to stick - Asymmetric tread with large, solid tread blocks on the outside shoulder to optimize cornering grip.
• Raise the limit - Extreme Tread EdgeTM (ETE) design brings tread compound farther down the shoulder for increased grip in hard cornering and predictable feedback.
• Consistent grip lap after lap -- Silica-infused competition compound delivers better grip from start to finish.
• Street legal with a UTQG treadwear rating of 200, so you can drive to the track and back.
The Rival will initially launch in 15 sizes with rim dimensions from 15-20 inches and 205-335 section width. The product will be available through TireRack.com with pre-orders beginning on Feb. 1." - quote from BFGoodrich PR
Testing 1 - The Short Autocross
Our test vehicles for the Short Autocross were a trio of road conquering Subaru WRX-STi's shod with the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rivals, Hankook radials and Toyo Tires. The Hankook and Toyo equipped Subies would provide us scribes with a basis for comparison to the new Rivals. We made four circuits of the Short Autocross in total. All of us started the test in the Rival equipped WRX, then the Hankook shod car, the Toyo Tires equipped Subaru and lastly with the BFGoodrich Rival shod Subie.
I felt this was a great way to accurately evaluate the performance characteristics of each manufacturer's tire. In essence, we learned the Short Autocross course on the BFG Rival tires. We then were able to compare the Rival tires to two other manufacturers' tires, after knowing the course better and better each time. Our fastest circuit could then be attained using the Rival tires at the end.
I must say that on the Short Autocross test, the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rival performed better than its two competitors. Turn-in was crisp and precise. There was no sliding, whether I turned left or right with the Rival. The Subaru felt composed and balanced, no matter how fast I tried to go. I didn't clip any cones or slide off course for my first circuit on the Rival tires or on my last. However, I did clip a cone or two. And I did meander a bit off course both while piloting the Hankook shod Subie and while driving the Toyo Tires' equipped car.
What's more, if you think about it, I was probably driving my fastest on the fourth circuit of the Short Autocross course, as this was when I knew the circuit the best and accordingly had the most confidence in my abilities. I wish the Short Autocross circuit was timed. I will wager that I earned my fastest time on my fourth run, while I was piloting the BFG Rival shod Subie.
Testing 2 - The Skidpad
Sibling rivalry is the best way to characterize this second tire driving test. We drove three Mazda Miata Spec Racers on the Skidpad. The first Miata was equipped with BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp-2 tires. The second Miata Spec Racer had the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rival tires. And the last Spec Racer was shod with BFGoodrich g-Force R1 S tires.
Indeed, the Skidpad test brings us to the method to BFGoodrich's marketing prowess. The BFG Sport Comp-2 tires are intended to be a great street tire and an entry level performance tire for the track. The new BFG g-Force Rival tires are supposed to slot right in the middle of the street/track performance lineup for consumers. In terms of ultimate track performance, the BFG g-Force R1 S tires, which were made available to the public in 2012, are the Mack Daddy of road circuits.
My Skidpad scores on each BFGoodrich equipped Mazda Miata Spec Racer proved that BFGoodrich hit the mark perfectly. Here are my results:
Miata Spec Racer shod with BFG Sport Comp-2 -- 1.05g
Miata Spec Racer shod with BFG Rival -- 1.18g
Miata Spec Racer shod with BFG R1 S -- 1.25g
Suffice it to say that the ride and performance characteristics of any of these three BFGoodrich tires is far superior to what my daily driven Mazda Miata can deliver with the Brand X radial rubber that's currently on my little Miata.
Testing 3 - The Long Autocross
For our driving/testing pleasure in the Long Autocross, BFGoodrich provided a duo of delightfully equipped new BMW M3's. One M3 had the BFG g-Force Rival tires, the other Beemer had some competitive Hankook rubber.
As with the Short Autocross, we all learned the Long Autocross while driving the BFG Rival shod BMW M3, then drove the Hankook equipped M3 on the course and finished by piloting the Beemer with the BFG g-Force Rival tires. We seemed to all get the same results. The Rival tires outperformed the Hankook equipped BMWs. The outcome wasn't even close. In my case, I was driving the swiftest, when I was enjoying my last lap of the Long Autocross in the car that had the Rival rubber. Response was crisp and rapid whether I was turning left or right. I took on the Autocross with a quiet confidence that was well beyond the amount of time I had on the circuit. With the competitors' tires on the other BMW, I went off the course and dragged a cone in a fender well perhaps 50 feet. Turn in wasn't as crisp, and the car seemed to wallow and slide in the turns. After driving both cars, we all did a visual inspection of the tires. There was more wear on the Hankook tires.
Testing 4 - NOLA Motorsports Park Road Course
Being in the Green group was very beneficial, as our last official test of the day involved two Mustang FR500 racecars, BFG Rival Tires and Falken Tires and two professional driving instructors. We learned the course by driving two hot laps in the BFG Rival equipped Mustang FR500 and finished our driving test with two laps in the competitive tire equipped Mustang. As with the Short and the Long Autocross, the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rival tires performed the best. Though I was probably going a little faster in the Falken equipped car, since I knew the track a bit better, I spun out on one of the last turn's of the circuit. The Falkens just couldn't stay glued to the track like the BFG Rivals could.
It's a shame I couldn't take the last two laps in the Rival shod Mustang. Then I'm confident I would have shredded that track with a glorious and precise race of the circuit. The fact being, I knew the track on that fourth lap, but the Falken Tires weren't up to my aggressive driving. Mind you, a professional racer, like the guy sitting in the passenger seat, would have been able to keep the rear of the Mustang from coming around. But, I did prove to myself which tires I would like to have on my cars. BFGoodrich has a clear winner in the new g-Force Rival tires. I predict that these high performance tires will sell very well, and they'll have a huge following of automotive racers and enthusiasts all over the world.
For Dessert - Ride Alongs with the Pros
At the end of the Rival Launch, all of us scribes had the great opportunity to get a one-lap ride along with a pro driver at the wheel of one of the racing Mustang FR500s or the Miata Spec Racer. Since I had just spent four laps in a couple marvelous Mustangs, I elected to go for my thrill ride in a Miata Spec Racer. That way, I could sense the difference between the two racing machines.
I must say that the pro racer, who chauffeured me around the course could drive with the best of them. He had that Miata dancing around the circuit so deliciously. He could bring the tail out and give it a good drift or power slide with ease. It's as if he had an intuitive sense when the car would be on the verge of losing traction, and he'd magically reel the rear back in. All the while that he commanded the racecar around the course, he was explaining to me what he was doing. Meanwhile, I was hooting and hollering with complete joy. This chauffeur ride was a million times better than the most dangerous roller coaster trip I'd ever enjoyed. It made me appreciate the amount of skill and practice it must take to be a successful racecar driver. This young man's experience behind the wheel was light year's beyond what I could do, and I was almost twice his age. My ego tells me that I'm an excellent driver (not unlike Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man), but this dude was most excellent, skillful, magnificent and a downright consummate pro.
The bottom line is that great tires, like the BFGoodrich g-Force Rivals, can certainly help you be a better driver/racer. That's something to keep in mind for anyone looking to get new performance tires for their favorite enthusiast autos.
Redline Review Thanks BFGoodrich
Redline Review extends a gracious thank you to BFGoodrich for inviting us to take part in the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival Tire Launch on January, 22 and January 23, 2013. We are impressed with the street and track performance driving characteristics of this new Rival tire. All of the cars that we drove with the Rival tires performed admirably and handled more effectively in the three competitive tests that we put the Rival through. In addition, the Rival seems to slot in perfectly with BFGoodrich's plans to provide a high-performance street and track tire that's equally adept at providing safe transport for consumers and delivering superlative results on road courses, skidpads and autocross circuits, whether at the amateur level or in officially sanctioned pro events. We genuinely believe that the g-Force Rival will be a big winner for BFGoodrich and for all the sharp individuals, who choose to purchase, use and campaign these high-performance tires on their racecars.