The Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R is the answer to your problem of loving the occasional track day but having nowhere to store – or not wanting the extra expense or having to cart around – a second set of wheels and tyres.
Delivering meaty and satisfying lateral grip you only get with a track tyre, but with apparently none of the notorious, libellous, classic characteristics of R-compound rubber – such as temperature sensitivity, deafening road noise or a straight-up refusal to work in the wet – we are, to be honest, quite smitten with Bridgestone’s RE-71R.
Having bolted them to a new Toyota 86 GTS for our test, we weren’t quite sure what to expect of these tyres, which replaced the popular RE-11A. One look at their aggressive tread pattern – with just two water clearing grooves – and you can imagine your car’s front end pushing wide through slow roundabouts; or the rear end slowly stepping out as you drive gingerly through corners in the wet. Or you having to wear noise cancelling headphones as you drive to work, or considering purchasing an inflatable doughnut to sit on.
Not the case. In fact, after fitting the RE-71Rs, the extra grip and sharper steering response was immediately (and gleefully) obvious the first few corners, even while we were still scrubbing in the tyres. And after spending a lot of time on the RE-71Rs during our test in a variety of conditions, while they look like they’re designed exclusively to swoop apexes and pound over ripple strips, this is a tyre you could easily commute to work on, every day.
For a start, the RE-71R asks you to make far fewer compromises than the traditional R-compound tyre. They are not particularly temperature sensitive, meaning you can use them pretty much from the off. They ride pretty well, certainly not noticeably harsher or jigglier on our 86 test car than the stock Michelin Primacys. And they even offer decent grip in the wet, letting you drive around like you’re on a normal high performance tyre, stress-free. We’ve even heard of people getting up to 25,000km out of a set, driving around on them every day – impressive mileage for such a soft tyre.
For certain, the RE-71Rs do ask some things of you. We didn’t weigh them, but they felt a lot heavier than some other 215/45 R17s we had around. They can be quite loud on coarse chip roads (although it’s all relative, they’re whisper quiet compared to some other R-compound tyres). They also make some interesting noises we’ve never heard from a tyre before; driving over freshly laid patches of bitumen, there is a loud sticking sound like the tread is so adhesive it is having to peel itself off the road surface. Although this noise is more cool than annoying if we’re honest…
The RE-71R’s all-condition road manners were so much like a regular high performance road tyre that we thought they might also in fact be in the same league as the more road-focused RE003 when it came to on-track performance. Gladly, here we were also wrong.
On track, the RE-71Rs are grippy and communicative, offering exactly the kind of performance you’d expect from a track-focused tyre – and withstanding multiple sessions and abuse with even wear and minimal graining. They’re built for this kind of abuse.
And they feel fantastic on track. In our 86 test car, lateral grip is almost a contrast to the stock Michelin Primacys, the RE-71Rs inviting an altogether different and aggressive driving style, gifting the 86’s front end a new tenacity and letting you basically stomp on the throttle out of corners. Stiffer sidewalls make you feel more connected to the tread face of the tyre, and in the 153kW 86, the sticky RE-71R challenges you to eke out every last km/h of momentum.
Are they fun to drive on? Yes, but in that they offer a satisfying amount of grip. This tyre is going to lock your car down. And when they do let go, it can be more sudden than progressive – exciting rather than fun, if you are wanting to slide around.
Are they very fast? In another test, we compared the RE-71R to the RE003, and literally the cheapest tyre we could buy in 215/45 R17. Around Winton Motor Raceway, same car, same conditions and same driver, the RE-71R was a blistering 2.9 seconds quicker a lap than the RE003, and 5.3 seconds quicker than the el-cheapo tyre we tested. We have, sadly, no reliable lap times for any other track-focused tyres.
All in all, we are impressed with the RE-71R, a tyre that feels built for the apparently divergent purposes of commuting and track days. And for both these uses, Bridgestone feels to have struck a very well-judged balance.
Of course, there is a compromise being made – the RE-71R is not the most refined high performance road tyre around, and nor would it be the quickest track tyre around a circuit. In that sense, if you intended to use your sports car for commuting and some twisty back road blasts, rather than track work – and where you mightn’t want your car totally glued to the road – you’re better to opt for a more refined, regular high performance road tyre with less grip but more progression, than the sticky but slightly binary RE-71Rs. Particularly as you stand to save a considerable amount of coin.
The same is true for those forced to use their track car in the urban jungle but also remain very concerned with their track day PB. We say continue (or employ) the two-sets-of-wheels strategy, one with the cushiest, quietest tyres available; and another with something stickier, noisier and nastier – and faster – than the RE-71R.
But if the track is the only place you push your sports car hard, and the objective of your track outings remains more to do with thrills than tenths, you should flick the spare set of wheels and old-school semi-slicks and save yourself a bomb by just fitting RE-71Rs. They remain surprisingly suitable for everyday use, but give you the extra grip, and durability, required (and desired) for a track outing.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R specifications
Size tested: 215/45 R17 91W
Made in: Japan
Diameter range: 14 to 20 inch
Section range: 185 to 295mm
Aspect ratio range: 60 to 30
Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R – $1640
Bridgestone Potenza Adrenalin RE003 – $1300
Yokohama Advan Neova AD08R – $1644
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 – $1972
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S – $1360
**Pricing a guide only. Correct as of March 2019.
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