Bridgestone is reviving the “RE71” line of ultra-high performance tires for 2015; except now, it’s gotten an added “R” which, in this instance, stands for “revival” as opposed to “racing” (my original thought considering the performance creds of the tire). The RE71 replaces 2014’s RE-11 at the top of the food chain in the Potenza lineup.
Indeed, throughout the ‘80s, versions of this tire were outfitted on IMSA racing cars and as original equipment on the Porsche 959, the most performance-minded of Porsche road cars when it debuted in 1986.
That car was also the first Porsche produced with an all-wheel drive set-up, which dovetails well with this current generation of the RE71 tire, which is built to work well on both AWD and rear-wheel drive performance cars.
The “racing” moniker is also applicable upon closer inspection of the tire. If you put aside, for a sec, that there’s tread on it, and just dig your fingernail into one of the blocks, you’ll find it so soft and Play-Doughy that your imprint will remain visible for a number of seconds. While we were just outside of Phoenix, temps hovered around the 25C mark -- which isn’t rubber-melt hot by any stretch of the imagination. Still, the RE-71R’s surface was as sticky as you’d want it. Bridgestone also had a less-sticky Potenza S-04 tire on-hand, and the difference between the two was palpable.
New, stiffer sidewalls help maintain the optimal contact patch through turns, while a wide centre rib makes for quicker turn-in and agility. The centre rib kind of serves a dual purpose; it also makes for deep grooves that help with water removal. We had no rain, but we were told that on the track, the RE-71R would actually perform better in the wet than would the S-04, thanks to those grooves and the angle of the tread pattern.
We had the chance to experience the RE-71R on a tight autocross track at the helm of a Scion FR-S; that car’s RWD set-up and sharp handling make it a regular sight on autocross tracks across the land, which Bridgestone says is one of the main reason people by an ultra-high performance tire like an RE-71R -- for track days.
In that environment, the RE-71R excelled; I could barely get the rear tail to swing out under hard acceleration while exiting turns and the like; in fact, I barely even managed to get the electronic stability control to kick in. The grip is talon-like, and that adds a boatload of confidence when you’re really pushing it. To put it all in perspective, a turn around the same track with the S-04 tire had the ESC stepping in much more often.
Bridgestone also partnered with the BMW Car Club of America to help showcase the tire, which will be making the rounds to various driver training events starting in April of this year.
The RE-71A is available now in sizes ranging from 15-19” diameter, and 205-285mm in width.