The new RE-71R resurrects a very old but successful name for Bridgestone and replaces the RE-11A. This is the first time Bridgestone has launched a campaign to win over the track-day junkies, who inhabit a niche previously ignored by the Japanese tyre giant even though it had racetrack-ready products available.
The RE-71R has a broad-shouldered look with two prominent centre channels for drainage. There are side channels arranged to resemble a V-pattern, but they’re not connected to the centre channels, thereby indicating it is primarily a dry-weather pattern that allows the outside tread to behave like one giant block. The tread belting and sidewalls are stiff, as expected, but the tread compound is soft and sticky to the touch.
The size of the RE-71R tested here is 225/40 ZR18 and the test car is a Honda Civic Type R saloon.
It is advisable to scrub-in the tyres for 100 kilometres to allow the outer layer to give its best performance.
Once bedded-in, these tyres revealed steering response which was not ultra-sharp at 32 psi but sharpened up at 35 psi.
I noticed a curious sizzle when the tyres rolled over painted lines, with the sticky compound making a sound like scotch tape being removed from a hard surface.
This tyre test pushed the Civic’s standard suspension beyond its limits, so I swopped to track-day coilovers which doubled the spring rate.
With the new suspension complementing the track-biased characteristics of the RE-71R, the handling became more progressive and I could push far harder than the standard CTR suspension would allow.
The higher tyre pressures and the hard ride would be of little consequence on a circuit, but for everyday driving on regular roads, it can be jarring, especially with the firmer suspension needed to extract the tyres’ full potential.
The cornering grip was crazy good and I needed to push well beyond the normal limits to make the RE-71Rs wilt. Every corner taken deliberately hard would elicit disbelief from me that the tyres did not breach their limit. Even at the end of this tyre test, the grip limit of the RE-71R still managed to surprise, with real progression as it approached its grip limit.
The braking was phenomenal, producing very short stops, even though the test car’s ABS cut in earlier than usual.
I wouldn’t worry about rear-ending the car in front during an emergency-stop situation; I would worry about whether the car behind mine could stop in time, too.
During brutal standing-starts, there was just a chirp from the front RE-71Rs, and they never spun on the spot, clawing their way forward with tenacity instead. There was no second-gear wheelspin, with the tyres just gripping and accelerating.
Steering feel with the track setup was great, with good positive feel, helpful heft and great meatiness. Yet, the steering response was not so darty that a sneeze at speed would translate into half a lane-change.
As long as there was no standing water, this tyre exhibited outstanding wet grip. Sure, there was a slight push, but the RE-71R really held on. Its cornering limits were noticeably lower in the wet, but it gripped better than some normal street tyres in the dry!
Despite the Bridgestone’s better-than-average resistance to aquaplaning by track-day tyre standards, the user should exercise caution when driving quickly in rainy conditions, because aquaplaning can be dangerous and unpredictable.
Surprisingly, the RE-71R was decently comfortable at 32 psi, but the comfort quickly deteriorated at 35 psi. The soft compound also absorbed the sharp edges of road imperfections quite well, although large tarmac disruptions could be felt through the hard sidewall. I could live with the tyre roar at 32 psi, but it might become a little too much for the driver who isn’t a hardcore Sepang trackie.
There is no doubt that the RE-71R, with its phenomenal yet progressive levels of grip, will be a demon on the racetrack.
Bridgestone has brought in the most commonly available sizes for track days. However, this new tyre is not for everyone. You need to be a committed petrolhead with a “hearing problem” to really appreciate the tyre.
In a track environment, the RE-71R will be constantly at the very edge of its performance envelope. In a city environment, it can deliver a modicum of comfort. To get the tyre ready for racing action, just pump it up by a few psi.
It is nice to have a track-capable tyre for driving on urban streets, even if its capability would be underused – just like a high-revving engine with a 9000rpm redline.
The Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R ranks as one of my favourite street-legal, track-ready tyres.