Review: BFGoodrich G-Force Rival

Mild-Mannered SuperTire.

BFGoodrich G-Force Rival. BFGoodrich, Inc.

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Let me put it this way: BFGoodrich's pure competition tire, the R1 and their street tire, the G-Force Comp-2, loved each other very much. When the stork finally arrived, they named it Rival, and found that they had a child who was greater than the sum of its parents. And what a cute kid it is...

The G-Force Rival is built to fill a highly specific niche. While the R1 is a very well-regarded competition tire and the Comp-2 sits atop Tire Rack's customer surveys for UHP street tires, the Rival aims to be the best of both worlds.

It's made to be a superior track tire that can still be driven to and from the track. This track/street hybrid goes along nicely with BFG's own battlecry, “If it's paved, we own it.”

Pros:

  • Fun. To. Drive.
  • Aims for an incredibly progressive grip and hits that target hard.
  • Well-mannered control and recovery.
  • Amazingly fast and precise steering feel.
  • Excellent treadwear.
  • Makes you look like a better driver.
  • Did I mention fun to drive?

Cons:

  • Some may dislike relatively stiff steering feel and somewhat hard street ride.
  • Not a daily driver by any stretch of the imagination.

Technology:

The G-Force Rival has some technology from the Comp-2, as well as some that I have never seen before, probably because much of it is brand-spanking-new:

Performance Racing Core (PRC): The skeleton of the G-Force Rival comes mainly from the Comp-2. The PRC has three essential elements.

  • Dynamic Suspension System (DSS) Layers of stiffened rubber that help the tire keep a flat and rigid profile along the contact patch.
  • G-Control Sidewall Inserts Highly stiffened layers of rubber at the center of the sidewall and wrapped around the wire beads of the tire. The stiffened sidewalls provide quicker lateral response and more precise cornering.

    Claw Grooves: The curved lateral grooves in the Rival's tread are not for water evacuation, but rather to provide biting edges at different angles to the tread. These appear to be come from the “G-Hooks” on the Comp-2's tread, which do much the same thing.

    Extreme Tread Edge (ETE): The outer tread blocks on the Rival are drawn much farther down onto the outer sidewall than on any tire I've ever seen, so that when the tire rolls over under high lateral G's, it's still running on tread rubber rather than sidewall rubber.

    Lateral Draft Angles: The normal circumferential grooves in the Rival are cut so that the sides of the grooves are at an angle – 20 degrees on the outer side – rather than at 90 degreees straight up and down. Under high lateral G's, this prevents the tread blocks from rolling over and evens out both the contact patch and the heat distribution. This is a pretty mind-blowingly simple idea that has not, to my knowledge ever been tried before. As I saw at the end of the day when looking at the treadwear after hundreds of laps, it appears to work extremely well.

    Chamfers: The tread blocks themselves are also rounded off rather than cut at a 90 degree angle in order to distribute braking pressure.

    The Rival also takes the unusual step of having two rib designs. For section widths under 265mm, the tire features three ribs, while tires over 265 have a four-rib design.

    Performance:

    In a return to NOLA Motorsports Park, where I tried out the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 last month, we went through almost exactly the same program to test out the Rival. (BFGoodrich is presently owned by Michelin.) We tested against multiple competitor's tires in short and long autocross, checked out lateral G's on a skidpad, and geeked out on the main track in racing-modified Mustang FRS500's.

    My group had the Mustangs first. (Wahooo!) At some point after barreling down the front straight past the timing tower at 100 mph, I realized that I really should be paying attention to the tires... It's hard to evaluate anything with only two laps at speed, but I did come to the conclusion that on the second set of laps, riding the non-Rival tires, I was blowing corners that I had already learned because I expected the other tires to be as sticky, as precise and as forgiving as the Rivals.

    The Rivals made me look like a better driver than I actually was.

    The long autocross took place in BMW E46 M3's and highlighted the ferocious grip and progressivity of the tires. I could talk about how I drove the course, but what really opened my eyes to how much better the Rival was came about when I was able to ride along with one of the professional drivers from Skip Barber Racing School. I'm a pretty good driver: I don't pretend to be a great one. I definitely appreciated it when one of the drivers would tell me I had taken a really good line at that corner. But compared to the pro drivers I felt like a monkey trying to write Shakespeare. They threw that car into turns like a bully playing dodgeball. The difference was entirely clear: The Rival carved through the turns, while with the other tires the technique was more like holding the nose in place while throwing the tail around the curve.

    On the skidpad, the technique was to hold the wheel in place around a short circle, while accelerating to find the maximum lateral G's the tires could hold before breaking loose, as well as to see how well a skid could be controlled with only throttle inputs. All three tires in this test were from BFG; the Rival, the R1 and the Comp-2. I was able to put down 1.2 G's on the Rival, which is pretty darn astonishing. Even more so was that while the Comp-2 had a bit less pure grip and the R1 a bit more, the Rivals clearly had a wider band of control while breaking loose, and much better manners both at and beyond the limit than even the R1.

    Short autocross in the Subaru WRX showed the Rival's extremely fast, precise steering response and braking power with a series of quick slalom turns and sharp hairpins. Since my group did the short track last, we also got to see the treadwear effect of hundreds of laps throughout the day on both the Rival and its, well, rivals. Since the progression was set as driving the Rival-equipped car for two laps, competitor for two laps, other competitor for two and then back to the Rival for one lap, the Rival-equipped car ended up with quite a few more laps than the rest, but showed much less wear, and much more even wear than either of the competing tires.

    The Bottom Line:

    I was frankly skeptical when the BFG people started off their media presentation by claiming their tire made people better drivers. “Yeah, sure.” I thought. “Everybody thinks that about their tires.” It is, after all, pretty much my job to be skeptical about marketing-speak.

    But by the end of the day I was a believer. To put it simply, this is one very impressive tire. Put the Rival on the street and it's a mild-mannered, progressive, driver-friendly, max performance tire. Put it on the track and it rips off the button-down shirt to become SuperTire – faster than a speeding M3, more powerful than 1.2 lateral G's, and able to respond instantaneously to the slightest of inputs. Ok, so it won't be leaping any tall buildings, but I think you get the picture.

    As with the Comp-2, this is a very fast, agile tire designed for quick responses. It has a much harder and stiffer steering feel than, say the Pilot Super Sport. It also has basically no siping patterns, so unlike the Pilot Sport A/S 3 or Potenza RE970AS, it has pretty much no wet performance at all.

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