My Dad is a retired, 40-year BFG man. My earliest memories involve wreaking havoc with BFG tire ashtrays -- that's right, corporate automotive give-aways used to involve drinking and smoking!!
Understand up front that I am loyal to the Michelin and BFG brands. Given the choice between equivalent, similarly-priced tires, I will always choose to support Dad's retirement.
The dawn over MSR-C. I love the smell of gasoline and hot brakes in the morning:
Line 'em up!
Tires, tires and more tires:
Trashing the Challenger (0-60-0):
Mowing with a Subie:
Rode hard, put away wet:
Musings on Tires:
The point of this exercise was for BFG to introduce their new UHP tire, the G-Force Sport Comp-2. For those who don't know, Summer performance street tires are subdivided into 3 categories. In order of dry traction performance (and reverse order of treadlife rating), they are:
1. Extreme Performance (RS-3, Star Spec and their ilk). Typically in the 100s for treadwear. Due to the light weight of the Miata, many of us run these on our DDs.
2. Maximum Performance (Michelin Pilot Super Sports, etc.). Typically in the 200s for treadwear, although the Pilot Super Sports on my Poncho G8GT are rated 300. Combined with Enkei PF-01s, I was able to cut 10 pounds (you read that right!) off EACH corner from OEM. The tire is much stickier than the OEM tire and also has a longer treadlife. Love that tire. Alas, not available in a Miata-friendly size.
3. Ultra High Performance (Yoko S-Drive, BFG Comp-2). This is the tire category I normally use on my DD Miata. I ran Yoko S-Drives for about 2 and a half years. Last year, I switched to the origninal BFG G-Force Sport design (didn't know they had this new one in the works). Both tires were 300ish in treadwear, and last practically forever on a Miata. At about 30K miles on the S-Drives, I was still at about 30-40%.
At the event, we got to drive identical cars shod with the BFG Comp-2 and competitor UHP-category tires. Obviously, the point was to show the BFG tire in the best possible light. Nonetheless, it's performance was impressive. BFG is a brand name of Michelin, and a lot of Michelin technology has filtered into the Comp-2 (within the Michelin hierarchy, Michelin brand tires are considered Tier-1, BFG are considered Tier-2, Uniroyal are considered Tier-3). The two main things that have been added to the Comp-2 as compared to the previous G-Force Sport are:
1. A high-silica compound that is sticky in wet and dry conditions while not giving up treadlife (imported from the Pilot Super Sport).
2. A stiffening side belt that is triangle-shaped with the thick side at the tire bead. This is supposed to add response in corners without harshening the ride or distorting the contact patch.
The events/cars we drove and my impressions:
1. VW GTI on a wet/dry autocross track laid out on the South loop at MSR-C. A water truck was constantly wetting down the wet part of the track. On the VW GTI, we drove the Kumho Ecsta SPT KU31 and Comp-2 back to back. The thing I remember is that the Kumho's felt sloppy, like they were 10psi low. That just made them much harder to drive all around than the BFGs.
2. Subaru WRX STI on the same wet/dry autocross track. Comparison was between Yokohama S-Drives and Comp-2. I was already familiar with the S-Drives having driven on them for several years. The test lived up to expectations. In the dry, the Yokos felt nice and responsive -- it didn't take much slip angle to generate lateral force and you could flip it easily. The Comp-2s felt about the same as the Yokos in responsiveness. But, in the wet, it was night and day. The Comp-2s are just amazing on water. Also, when you reach the limit, the Yokos tend to give up abruptly, while the Comp-2s plateau and still give you good lateral force that diminishes gradually. The Comp-2s were much more forgiving and easier to drive at the limit. As you can see in the pictures, some of the S-Drive shod Subies left the track because of this characteristic. I managed to stay on track, but only because I initially learned to drive on a 1973 2WD Ford F-250 with open differential in NE Ohio Winters (either that, or I'm a wimp). I was scrambling with the S-Drives, and it brought back memories of a couple of exciting drives I had with them on my Miata.
3. Challenger 392 on a 0-60-0 run. This was purely an instrumented test to measure stopping distances with GPS while using the Challenger's ABS system. Comparison tires were the Hankook Ventus V12 Evo and Comp-2. Averaged over hundreds of stops, the Comp-2 was beating the Hankooks by about 9 feet. Boring drive. Mash the throttle, mash the brake pedal, next. I felt bad for the instructor having to do that over and over. The Challengers were puking front suspension bushings from the abuse.
4. Camaro SS on a road course laid out on the North loop at MSR-C. A few cones were set out to help drivers visualize the racing line. Comparison was between Cooper Zeon RS3-S and Comp-2 and we got two laps with each. Honestly, I thought the two tires felt similar, but the Comp-2s were a couple clicks faster. I can't really say if that was a tire thing or a course familiarity thing.
5. Boss 302 on the road course with an instructor driving. No comparison, the point of this was to show how the Comp-2 performed in the hands of a competent driver. I got to ride along with Skip Barber Chief Instructor Terry Earwood. His racing CV is as long as this never-ending post, and much more impressive. It was a hoot. Terry has that easy-going "been there, won that" manner and his driving was precise and utterly fluid. Someday . . . but probably not. Sigh.
It all ended WAY too soon.
Some other interesting (or depressing) tidbits:
1. This was actually a Discount Tire event. In addition to the product comparisons, presentations focused on how to sell the tire, who the intended customer was (they found a picture of Hustler holding hands with Fae for that slide -- don't know where they got it), profit margins, ordering stock, yada, yada. To BFG's credit, they also had a long presentation on alignment, handling, aspect ratio effects, chassis dynamics and the importance of wheel/tire weight, etc. It was nice to see a manufacturer trying to spread some real technical knowledge into its dealers.
2. Marketing focus has changed. The original G-Force Sport came out when the tuner craze was going. It has lots of Miata-friendly sizes (I'm running 205/50R15). Now, it's all about muscle cars. There are only two 15" sizes of the Comp-2 (the best for us being a 195/50R15). All the rest are 16" through 20". The focus is not on us, and I suspect this is a trend that we'll be seeing across the industry. Darn shame because tire technology is always progressing, and we're likely to start being shut out of it as time goes on.
3. Michelin sees the classic, American BFG brand as a great asset for competing in the muscle car arena. They are breathing serious life into the brand, which means we're likely to see some other great products from BFG -- maybe even an Extreme Performance tire. I just hope they make one in our sizes.
Musings on Cars:
We're living in a golden age. Drove a wide selection of brand new cars, all of which were trackworthy right off the showroom floor. Any one of these cars would have seemed like a miracle twenty years ago (when the Miata was a miracle).
1. VW GTI: Soft brake pedal. Lots of room. Nice handling for a FWD.
2. Subie WRX STI: Nice car. Darn quiet. I know it has a turbo, but I'll be darned if I can hear it.
3. Challenger 392: Big friggin' engine. Very nice interior. Lousy visibility from the retro styling. Not holding up to the abuse.
4. Camaro SS: Cheating here because I own a Poncho G8GT which is the same engine and chassis. LS engines are da bomb. Lousy visibility from the retro styling. A sunroof and a helment don't mix. With the automatic, accelerating out of a corner goes . . . throttle . . . one-potato, two-potato, ignition, blast-off. Yuck. Needs the transmission tune from my Pontiac.
5. Boss 302: Awesome. Is it the car or is it Terry?
6. 1990 Mazda Turbo Miata: At the end of the day, I didn't mind one bit driving this one home. Miatas with a little boost are truly awesome, even at 23 years old.