January 22, 2013
Back in 1998, BFGoodrich rolled out the g-Force T/A KD to fill in the gap between R-compound track tires and Ultra High Performance tires of the day. The KD suffix nomenclature pointed to this tire's intended purpose – Key feature: Dry traction. Sure, DOT-legal R-compound tires delivered more dry traction, but they weren't (and still aren't) intended for road use. The g-Force T/A KD was a true street tire that delivered an extreme level (for the day) of dry traction, sought after by enthusiastic street drivers and autocross/track day participants who wanted a tire they can also drive to and from the track. While enthusiasts have always taken street tires to the track, the g-Force T/A KD's level of ultimate dry grip along with its streetable nature ended up starting a revolution in performance street tires.
And with that, the Extreme Performance Summer tire category was born. For a number of years the g-Force T/A KD was unchallenged as the "king of the dry" among street tires. Fast forward to today, and nearly a dozen tires fit the category as a testament to demand from the enthusiast community and interest among tire manufacturers to develop the technology needed to blend real street capability and track performance.
In an effort to repeat history and rival the performance of all current competitors, BFGoodrich has once again focused its attention on the Extreme Performance Summer tire category. Members of the Tire Rack team had the opportunity to sample BFG's new offering, the g-Force Rival at the NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Louisiana. The relative warmth of New Orleans in January was a welcome break from the wintertime cold and snow at Tire Rack headquarters, and also gave us a chance to experience the new tire before our regular testing season begins later in the year.
To warm up for the day and put the g-Force Rival's performance capability into perspective we started out driving on a simple skidpad circle, using track-prepped Mazda MX-5 Cup Cars fitted with 225/45R17 BFGoodrich tires from three different tire categories – the g-Force Sport COMP-2, g-Force Rival and g-Force R1-S.
The Ultra High Performance Summer g-Force Sport COMP-2 felt predictable and progressive as it approached the limit, with gradual breakaway and plenty of audible feedback as the tires squealed around the circle. On average we pulled just shy of 1.0g lateral with this tire.
Next was the g-Force Rival. Building speed and bending into the arc of the skidpad circle, this tire immediately communicated its intentions, with direct steering response and stable handling as cornering force increased. As the tire reached peak grip, there was still audible tire squeal, but at a lower tone than the higher-pitched squeal of the g-Force Sport COMP-2. During the product presentation earlier in the day, the BFGoodrich engineers talked about their effort to create a tire with a broad plateau of grip at the limit. This was quite evident in the steady-state exercise of the skidpad, where the g-Force Rival felt as if it didn't lose much ultimate grip as the slip angle increased, with average cornering power at just over 1.1g lateral.
To bookend the demo we climbed into a third car, equipped with g-Force R1-S R-Compound Racetrack & Autocross Only tires. As expected, this tire offered the highest cornering capability, pulling nearly 1.2g around the skidpad. While remaining relatively easy to control at the limit, this tire's virtual-slick tread pattern produced very little noise as slip angles increased, and felt more abrupt at break away as the limit was reached.
To experience the Rival in a dynamic environment we moved over to the short autocross course, where Subaru WRX STI's wearing 245/40R18 tires waited. This short, 20-second course featured a few side-to-side offset and slalom maneuvers connected by a sweeping 180-degree turn. Here, the g-Force Rival handled the weight and power of the WRX STI very well. Steering response and ultimate cornering traction were both quite good, combined with very good acceleration and braking traction. On the box-stock Subaru, the g-Force Rival generated plenty of rear end traction. So much, in fact, that if car or competition class allowed for further tuning, some set-up adjustments could be made to help the car and tire combination go even faster.
By their nature, Extreme Performance Summer tires are street tires that are track capable. NOLA Motorsports Park's 2.7-mile road course features a long straight, a handful of right and left sweeping turns and a fast S-turn section. For this demo we piloted Ford Mustang FR500s fitted with 245/40R18 tires. Overall the g-Force Rival felt very predictable and composed. Threshold braking from well over 100mph felt stable. Steering inputs responded with authority, allowing the car to drive right down to the apex with relative ease. And yet, the car felt poised and stable, without any nervous edginess that could unsettle the car and shake driver confidence. This really showed when entering the S-curves at 85mph and using throttle adjustments to fine-tune the driving line. Here the Rival felt very stable and composed. It's fun to drive this street tire on the track.
The final demo of the day was the long autocross. Here a 45-second, W-shaped course slithered over gently undulating paddock pavement and provided plenty of challenge to the BMW E46 M3 test cars wearing 245/40R18 tires. For many of our drivers this demo seemed to put all the pieces together, where the powerful and relatively heavy BMW combined with the twisty course layout revealed the overall grip and predictability of the g-Force Rival. Steering response felt direct, cornering traction was relatively high, and both combined with very good braking and acceleration traction. This tire tolerates a moderate amount of slip while riding on its wide plateau of grip at the limit. Even driving hard off the corners with some rear end slide resulted in plenty of forward progress, not just sideways motion.
The g-Force Rival certainly shined during our outing at NOLA Motorsports Park. This street tire showed that it is very track- and autocross-worthy. All signs point to go, as this tire has plenty of dry grip, predictable feel and what looks like very good wear characteristics when driven on the track or at an autocross. We'll be conducting a full road and track test at Tire Rack headquarters in the early summer of 2013 once temperatures warm up. Stay tuned for that test report coming soon.
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