Wednesday, January 23, 2013

BFGoodrich g-Force Rival: The Plot Thickens! (UPDATED)

Picture by 365racing.net
So apparently, BFGoodrich just held a hush-hush launch at NOLA for its new g-Force Rival tire. Andy Hollis - Twelve-time SCCA Solo national champion, and instructor for the Evolution Performance Driving School, posted this on his Hollis Racing Facebook account:

Here today for the launch of the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rival. Got 10 laps back to back between this and the new Dunlop on an MX5 Cup car. Full second faster on the Rival, which was much easier to drive at the limit. Very forgiving. Z2 was much more peaky with a narrow window at the limit. Rival also loves to make noise.

And also, he was quoted in the same thread as saying:

This was a launch event- no longer a secret. Tomorrow Tire Rack will have a product page including sizes with ETA's up tomorrow for ore- order. Some sizes due first week of February, one of which is the 225/45/15.
My laps in the MX 5 were done yesterday as 1-off back to back comparison in the same car/ same driver on NOLA's full course- lap time around 2:08

Now that's some significant information to chew on! Sure enough, the tires are listed on the Tirerack this morning. No treadwear listed yet. Prices are approximately 20% higher than the Direzza II for most sizes, although interestingly, some very popular sizes are very close in pricing (245/40/17 is only $2 more expensive for the Direzza ZII).

The Direzza II and g-Force Rival side by side
Here are my thoughts on the one-second improvement over the Direzza II mentioned by Andy Hollis:
  1. Coming from Andy, this number carries significant weight! This is the first back to back comparison of the two tires in the same car and driver. It's a big plus that the test was performed by one of the most experienced drivers you'll find anywhere, so the variation in lap times due to inconsistent driving would be practically non-existent.
  2. One-second difference over a 2:08 lap is still only < 1% improvement. One-second difference on a 30-second autocross course would have been a lot more significant of course.
  3. The Rival's tread depth is only 7/32 (note that SCCA requires tread depth >7/32 on new tires for them to be legal). The Direzza ZII's tread depth is 9/32 for the larger tires and 8/32 for the smaller ones! It would be interesting to find out how the times would compare with the same tread depth.
  4. It would be interesting to find out how much heat the two tires need to get close to their sweet spot. This has been one of the old Star Spec Direzza Z1's advantages and it would dictate how appealing the tires are for autocrossing.
  5. The Direzza ZII is fantastic in the rain. It would be great to find out how the g-Force Rival's wet times compare. 
It's really cool to have a choice of two great new tires for the upcoming season!

The  g-Force Rival in all its glorious tread block size!
Also check 365racing's write-up on their launch.
Hat Tip to Chang K., Andrew K., and Mark D.

1/23/2013 UPDATE
  1. Even though the treadwear is not officially listed on the Tirerack site, the g-Force Rival picture on the site is showing a treadwear rating of 200!
  2. The g-Force Rival will only be available late April/May timeframe, which is too late in the season for most drivers. This will probably cost BFG some sales. I believe SCCA rules require the tire to be available in at least six sizes by April 30, so BFG may be cutting it really close here.
  3. The 7/32 tread depth controversy is in full swing. SCCA requires tread depth >7/32 on new tires, which technically makes the g-Force Rival illegal for SCCA events. Odd thing about SCCA rules is that the tires can still be shaved to 1/32 depth but they have to start out at >7/32 depth from the manufacturer.
  4. Terry Fair, one of the Day 2 drivers in the BFG Rival launch at NOLA, posted this feedback on his Facebook account:
    Wow. Huge differences. The Toyo had the absolute worst turn-in response. Awful. The RS3 was a good bit better but transitional response wasn't as good as the Rival. The BFG had the best response of them all and was much more progressive at the limit. Winner = Rival. 2nd = RS3. Distant 3rd = Toyo
1/24/2013 UPDATE
Jim at the Tirerack has confirmed that the Rival's tread depth was measured at 7.4 mm and he believes the tires are SCCA legal.

1/25/2013 UPDATE
Tire war is going on in full swing! BFG has dropped the prices significantly on popular Rival sizes since they were first listed during the initial rollout on the Tirerack just two days ago! For example, size 245/40/17 is now listed at $173, which makes it $2 cheaper than the same size Dunlop Direzza ZII. Competition is good!!

1/28/2013 UPDATE:
Here is what Mike "Junior" Johnson (President and Chief Instructor of the Evolution Performance Driving School) had to say about the new BFG Rival after testing.

OK, I've got a little bit of time before I jump on the plane and head back home. My first disclaimer is that I have zero dog in the "road tire" fight, as I'm an R-comp fan, and currently have no bias towards any brand of "road tires."

Test One Low Speed Auto-X - Cars Stock STI's - Tires BFG Rival, Hankook, and Toyo.
First impression of the Rival, was turn in like a R-Comp with a comfort zone to match. The tire gave great feel, and enough audible feedback to know exactly what you, or it needed at all times. For those that may tend to over drive, the tire will allow you to get away with more than the other tires within the test for sure.

Impression of the Hankook was much more squirmy at the limit, as well as a slow turn in. It was surely better than the Toyo, but gave nothing close to the feel of the Rival.

Impression of the Toyo, was similar to that of the Hankook, but with much more roll to it. In short, the competitors tires just feel sloppy.

Test Two Skid Pad Comparing the three BFG Tires - Cars MX-5 Cup Cars - BFG Comp 2, BFG Rival, and BFG R1-S.
Comp 2 average Lat g's were approx .95. The tires felt pretty good, but had a harder fall of once over the limit. Meaning that the driver would need to be very careful to not go "over" the edge.

Rival average Lateral g's were right around 1.0, and the tire had a very large comfort zone, with the ability to stay at, near or over the limit without huge penalty. This to me is a great advantage in a sport where .001's of a second are the difference between winning and losing.

R1S average Lat g's 1.2, and the tire felt very good at the limit, and much like the Rival, had a fairly large happy zone. Keep in mind I have more testing in the Corvette on this same tire, and the Miata has a much larger margin of error than the Corvette does just based on the lack of horsepower the MX-5 has.

Overall thoughts on this test - Rival and R1S are very similar in feel and have a great comfort zone. What I want in a performance tire!

High Speed AutoX - Cars E46 M3's - Tires BFG Rival and Hankook.
Once again the Rival gave incredible feedback just as I would expect from a R-Comp. It put power down very well, as well as gave great feel during braking. The tire also transitioned quite well in the higher speed off-sets.

The Hankooks once again felt squirmy to me, and were absolutely horrible in the off-sets. With Autocrossing being so transition intensive, there is no question in my mind which tire I would use for the RT or ST categories.

Track Test - Cars Mustang FR500's - Tires BFG Rival and Falken
First two laps on the BFG, once again I was so impressed with the handling characteristics of this tire. Braking was great, turn-in was great, power off was great, and steady state was so easy to maintain.

Second two laps on the Falken. First corner it was so obvious that I was not going to get the same results. As we entered turn one the braking was nowhere near as stable, and at turn in, where I like to use the curbs, the Falken was NOT happy at all. Honestly the tires felt like the they were over heated from lap one.

Got to jump plane now, but more when I get to my connector. For now, in short RIVAL IS CONFIDENCE INSPIRING!! A Winner!!!

1/29/2013 UPDATE
The Tirerack posted this very cautious review of the BFG g-Force. No real numbers or any tangible performance data - this was mostly to announce the Rival's launch event and to welcome the tire to their site. The real information here is that they are officially confirming treadwear rating of 200 for the Rival.

3/19/2013 UPDATE
Andy Hollis on Dunlop ZII vs. BFG Rivals and other tires - this is one tire review you don't want to miss! This part sums it up best:

... the ZII is most likely to be highly setup dependent, and will reward precise driving.  The Rival, on the other hand, floats all boats higher.  It will make "heroes out of zeros", much in the way that the Kumho V710 r-comp did when it first came out, versus the super-precise Hoosier A3S03 of the day.  This is especially critical on the track, where one small mistake can have disasterous results.  For autocross, in the right hands and with the right setup, the ZII may prove to be faster for the best drivers.

Related post:
More Thoughts on Street-Legal Performance Tires from Andy Hollis
Best 2013 Performance Tire Poll
Dunlop Direzza ZII - Onboard Video at the Autocross
First Dunlop Direzza ZIIs Shipped to Customers!!
Dunlop Direzza ZII - First Driving Impressions
Dunlop Direzza ZII: The Lap Time Comparison We've All Been Waiting for!
Dunlop Star Spec Direzza ZII: A Tire as Exciting as a Date with Scarlet Johansson!
Bridgestone RE11A: A New Suspect Has Entered the Crime Scene
BFGoodrich g-Force Rival: The Plot Thickens!