Bridgestone Potenza Race: Equally adept on track and on the street?

Andy
By Andy Hollis
Dec 23, 2023 | Tire Test, Bridgestone, Potenza RE-71RS, Potenza Race | Posted in Tires & Wheels , Features | Never miss an article

Photography by Andy Hollis

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Family history often dictates individual personality traits–it’s true with humans, cars and tires. Bridgestone has a long and storied history in motorsports with major successes from the grassroots level all the way up to F1. 

However, major tiremakers derive most of their revenue from OE fitments for road cars, not aftermarket replacement or specialty products for racing. Occasionally all three line up, like when a tire model is developed for a special vehicle–in this case, the Lamborghini Huracán STO.

Supercars have an extremely wide performance envelope and must have tires to match all uses. First and foremost, they must deliver an excellent on-road experience, since that’s how most owners will use these cars. Ride quality and noise are key traits, as are steering response and control authority. 

A supercar like the STO is likely to see track usage as well, so its tires must also perform well at the limit. Predictability and consistency under heavy loading are just as important as basic grip–the latter needed in heavy doses for a 630-horsepower rocket ship. In short, it needs a trackable street tire.

By contrast, aftermarket replacement tires aimed directly at motorsports use can take some liberties with streetability. Owners value track performance way more than street manners. In fact, some drivers wear a stiff and noisy road ride as a badge of courage, reminding them daily of their car’s track prowess. Think of these as streetable track tires.

Both approaches qualify to wear the Potenza moniker, Bridgestone’s trademark for high-performance tires. At the pointy end of each field sits the Potenza Race and the Potenza RE-71RS.

While we have lots of hands-on experience with the latter, the Potenza Race was originally just a blip on the radar since it was strictly OE-only for the track-focused Lambo back in 2021. A year later, we went to full alert with the news that Bridgestone would leverage its development into a full range of sizes for the replacement market. And now, we’ve finally put eyes on the target and can directly compare the performance each approach delivers.

We tapped our Triple Threat ND-chassis Miata project car as the test mule and selected 225/45R17 as the best fitment between the two lines of tires. The Potenza Race targets larger, more powerful applications, while the RE-71RS tends toward smaller fitments: The two lines overlap the most with 17- and 18-inch diameters. 

Our test tires were mounted on 17x9-inch Kogeki wheels from Flyin’ Miata, and each was given an initial heat cycle with a round trip to the track plus six laps at an ever-increasing pace. 

We added a third contender to our test plan, a larger set of RE-71RS tires in a 245/40R17 size left over from a previous project. This would give us a familiar combination for both baseline and bracket sessions as well as another sizing data point. 

Our street sessions provided a chance to compare each tire’s road personality. The Potenza Race was simply a delight in this regime. Very linear steering response gave a sporty feel, while the softer carcass and sidewalls were taut without being harsh. Perhaps its greatest attribute was simply how quiet it was for a 200tw track-oriented tire. 

By contrast, the RE-71RS provided a more progressive steering response with a strong on-center feel. Its stiff carcass transmitted every bump, though the softer compound soaked up the more minor irregularities. The blocky tread design traded top-of-the-line cornering performance for a constant highway drone that only got worse as the tread wore.

Test day at the track dawned hot and only got hotter, with ambient temps ranging from 85° to 95° across the half day of testing. Full sun also quickly warmed the Harris Hill Raceway track surface. 

Our break-in prep sessions had revealed some significant heat soak challenges that we attempted to mitigate on test day by keeping our two test subjects cooling in our motor home until called into action.

Alone on the track as it went green, we spent 20 minutes on the 245s, cleaning up the overnight dustiness until lap times stabilized into familiar territory. After short break for the tires to cool off, we began our test.

Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS

  • 245/40R17 
  • fastest lap: 1:26.2

This set of RE-71RS tires had a few prior sessions on them, so the tread was nicely broken in but still had a full-depth feel–squirmy at the limit and more sudden breakaway than when worn to lower depths. Despite the heat, they were fairly consistent across the laps, but the quick time still came early on lap two with a 1:26.2.

Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS

  • 225/45R17 
  • fastest lap: 1:26.9

After bolting on the fresh set of 225mm-wide RE-71RS tires, we attempted to replicate the performance of the larger size but fell a bit short. As expected, the new tires delivered two very quick laps prior to heat soaking. At that point, the full-tread RE-71RS howled with feedback when pushed hard. Quick time was a 1:26.9.

Bridgestone Potenza Race

  • 225/45R17 
  • fastest lap: 1:27.6

The Potenza Race’s road personality continued on the track. Where the RE-71RS’s steering feel ramped up as cornering loads increased, the Potenza Race stayed fairly linear. This made it a little more challenging to anticipate the limits of adhesion until we were over them. 

Mitigating this was a very progressive breakaway that allowed easy recovery. These traits combined for a very fun experience on a well-balanced vehicle, as both ends are worked against each other. While its quickest lap was only a 1:27.6, it could repeat it consistently. We stayed out just to see how long it would take for the tire to fall off–and it never did.

Bridgestone Potenza RE-71RS (retest)

  • 245/40R17 
  • fastest lap: 1:26.4

Bracketing our test with a repeat of the 245s netted a slight slowdown in pace, with the data showing us losing time all in the straights. With the high temps, the car’s drivetrain was simply not putting out quite the same power as when we started. Still, this gave us confidence in the veracity of our comparative test results, especially given the fairly large margins.

The Potenza Race (far right) is taller, with less tread width than the same-size RE-71RS (middle).

Track Test Results

Drawing Conclusions

Bridgestone’s performance target during development of the Potenza Race was the Michelin Sport Cup 2, and independent testing in Europe showed the Potenza to be superior in both lap times and longevity. Combine that with our results here, and the Potenza Race finds a home in the marketplace for those looking to put down consistent, high-quality laps while still delivering excellent road manners. 

The RE-71RS is still better for single-lap time trial competition, but you’ll pay a streetability, consistency and longevity price for that pace. Either way, Bridgestone has you covered.

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Comments
Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
7/24/23 10:25 a.m.

I love that we can always rely on Andy thorough tire tests.

(And if there are any tires you want tested, feel free to let us know.)

CrashDummy
CrashDummy Reader
7/24/23 11:37 a.m.

Another great test and article; thank you!

It seems silly that the tire called "Race" is the one that's more focused on street manners. When I saw the name of the tire I assumed it would be a sub-200TW borderline track-only tire. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/24/23 12:09 p.m.

In reply to CrashDummy :

Several years ago, a friend in the tire business reached out: Would I mind taking a quick survey regarding the name of an upcoming tire?

All of the names were alphanumeric, but it was cool to get a little glimpse into the actual process. 

Andy Hollis
Andy Hollis
7/24/23 12:54 p.m.
CrashDummy said:

It seems silly that the tire called "Race" is the one that's more focused on street manners. When I saw the name of the tire I assumed it would be a sub-200TW borderline track-only tire. 

Almost like the OE side of the house doesn't talk to the motorsports side?  ;)

Note that the even more "street" Potenza is called Potenza Sport. 

BA5
BA5 GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/24/23 4:26 p.m.

My guess is you get more mileage out of the 'race' naming on a street tire than a more track oriented tire.  It'll be a bigger market and a race tire relies more (although I'm sure still not entirely) on actual lap time performance to sell.  So they probably save the cool names for the street tires.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/25/23 12:38 a.m.
Andy Hollis said:

Note that the even more "street" Potenza is called Potenza Sport. 

Which is not a bad tire at all for a performance-oriented street car.  I have them on my Audi because the PS4S was on national back-order when I needed new tires, and IME they're almost as good as the Michelins in basically every way. :)

 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/31/23 10:57 a.m.

I admit, when I got the initial release about the Potenza Race, I pictured an R-comp–you know, something with just two grooves.

It does sound like a pretty sweet street tire, though. 

ConiglioRampante
ConiglioRampante New Reader
8/31/23 11:23 a.m.

Streetable  tire technology simply amazes me.  With all the mega-horsepower vehicles available today (and even the plethora of 300+ hp Wagon Queen Family Trucksters), it's simply amazing to me how the tires manage it all.  The engineering and materials science is incredible.

Thanks for the review.

te72
te72 HalfDork
8/31/23 9:11 p.m.

Was looking at the Falken 660's for the Miata / AW11, but now I have to reconsider and add a Bridgestone to the list for the next street tire. Appreciate the review, sounds like a fun tire!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/1/23 9:08 a.m.

By the way, hint, hint, our Ultimate Track Tire Guide has been updated.  

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