By Brad Yonkers
In 2014 there were several well-known and popular street tire choices and all were capable of competitive lap times. In 2015 Bridgestone launched their RE-71R tire and the fallout was epic. It was significantly faster than the 2014 options and left other tire companies scrambling to catch up. BFGoodrich was quick to answer with their Rival-S revision, however it generally proved to be slower than the same size RE-71R. What it lacked in sheer speed was made up for with wider sizes (up to 335/30/18). In some cases, the wider size was enough to make the Rival-S the preferred choice over the skinner RE-71R. 2016 brought very few changes as Dunlop, Hankook and Toyo relegated themselves to being the slower and longer wearing tires while Bridgestone and BFG continued to battle for top track times.
2017 tire options as we know them so far:
BFG kept busy making tweaks by adding a new size to the lineup with a 245/40/15 in addition to finalized changes to their smaller sizes (3-rib 255 and narrower) in an effort to match the RE-71R. The new tweaks to the smaller sizes are meant to improve steering feel/feedback and help eliminate the “vague at the limits” feel. Early testing shows them to be several tenths of a second faster on an auto-x course than the previous Rival-S revision.
Utilizing the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” method, Bridgestone returns with their class leading tire. Testing is needed to show if they’ve brought enough to the table or if one of the new kids on the block will be the top tire this season. Expect faster braking, laser sharp steering response, and a very fine line of “over the limit.” These tires don’t like to be overdriven but if you teeter on the edge of their grip, they will reward with fast lap times.
Continental Extremecontact Sport
The previous Continental Extremecontact DW was the tire for rain traction and now has been replaced with the extremecontact sport. Even amongst classes where Hoosier slicks are allowed, it is not uncommon to find a set of “contis” waiting their chance should the heavens open and standing water abound. As an all-around tire these fell short of the previous Michelin Pilot Super Sport due to less dry traction. Continental hopes to have fixed that with increased dry traction and the same wet traction they have been known for.
Dunlop Direzza Z3 (unconfirmed)
The Direzza Z2 star spec has been a favorite among those looking for positive feedback and long life. The new Z3 appears to be aiming squarely for the RE-71R both in its more rounded profile as well as its compound change. Dunlop says the new tire has a wider center rib for improved load handling and that the compound will increase grip and wear resistance compared to the Z2*. Whether that’s enough to hang with the RE71R remains to be seen.
Most tire companies like to change tread patterns or occasionally make large changes to their tires, however Falken seems content. Originally released in 2005, the only visible changes to the RT615 model are the letters on the sidewall. In 2010 Falken added “k” to their tires name to mean kaizen or “continuous improvement.” In 2014 a behind the scenes compound change happened. Now for 2017, Falken has tacked on a “+” symbol to the sidewall. We have yet to know the extent of the change.
Federal Tire 595RS-RR
Federal has struggled to gain momentum in the performance tire industry. While a popular option for street/drift, their previous revision fell victim to the 140tw to 200tw change which rendered the tire illegal for competition. The new 595RS-RR is a 200tw and legal for all SCCA street class events. Early reports say that while it lacks the speed of brand new RE-71/Rival-S, it matches the speed of used versions of those tires. This tire also runs extremely wide for its size which can be an advantage in classes limited to a tread width. It’s also the most affordable tire by size.
Hankook RS4 (unconfirmed)
A picture is worth a thousand words. Aside from this image, little is known about the new RS4:
Kumho Ecsta V720
Kumho’s attempt to compete with the Rival-S and Re-71 duo proved to fall a tad short. It seemed to have the speed initially, but it suffered from unusual wear problems and tread delamination. Later shipments of tires seem to not have that issue and heat cycling them prior to the first auto-x also seems to help. In fact, any of the newest 200tw tires seem to benefit from a heat cycle prior to competition. There are no changes we are aware of for 2017. It may be worth a consideration due to the generally less expensive cost.
Maxxis Victra VR-1
In 2016 Maxxis released their latest 200tw tire. Outright speed was never the focus of this tire and while the other popular options trade wear for grip, the Maxxis can only be described as wearing like iron. There a popular choice for those who enjoy spending time on the road course as well as the auto-x track. They may not give you record lap times, but you’ll get a lot of smiles per mile instead.
Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S
New for 2017, Michelin took its superb dry performance and combined it with improved wet performance. Its wet preformance is already one of the highest rated in the industry. They are popular on supercars and with events like One Lap of America where the same tire must be used all week no matter the weather. They are one of the most expensive tires and initially will only be offered in 19-20” sizes.
Best of luck in your tire selection for next season!
Editors Note: Thanks Brad Yonkers for the insight. We hope that this has helped broaden your horizons on what street tires are available. This certainly does not cover all options, but a majority of the street tires from the larger manufacturers are listed above. There are many different things to think about when choosing a tire and everyone's criteria and needs will be different. We will explore the ideas and tech behind tires in deeper depth in the near future.