If you are a driving enthusiast interested in how your vehicle accelerates, improves cornering and braking, I suggest you take a close look at Bridgestone’s new high-performance Potenza RE-71RS. The all-new tyre, the successor to the previous generation Potenza RE-71R, incorporates several key innovations in tire technology designed to improve handling, maintain more consistency and extend tread life – music to the ears a driving enthusiast.
As expected, the Potenza RE-71RS is not designed or marketed for a wide audience. Instead it is a high performance driver education (HPDE) and competition tire intended for a special and discerning driver – a person looking for maximum cornering grip, optimized handling and short braking distances. In other words, the kind of driver who competes in grassroots racing, autocrossing, or weekend club track events (those looking for four-season capability, low rolling resistance, and 50,000-mile tread guarantees should look elsewhere).
To achieve these goals, Bridgestone engineers incorporated a new high-grip tread compound that offers five percent better wear than the previous generation Potenza RE-71R – allowing racers to get more laps out of every set. In addition, low-angle grooves and an asymmetrical tread pattern improve steering and grip, and the tread pattern has been optimized to increase cornering contact patch and improve lap times. The hard work has paid off. According to Bridgestone, the new Potenza RE-71RS is an average of 0.6 seconds faster per lap on Japan’s world-famous Tsukuba Circuit than the previous generation Potenza RE-71R.
“Our goal with the Potenza RE-71RS is to provide a worthy successor to the legendary Potenza RE-71R for drivers who demand the highest levels of grip, consistency and precision,” said Will Robbins, Director of Consumer Product Strategy, Bridgestone Americas ( and an authentic weekend racer himself) during a recent interview. “The Potenza RE-71RS represents Bridgestone’s ongoing commitment to enabling enthusiasts and recreational athletes to get the most out of their HPDE, autocross, time trial or endurance races while maintaining the roadworthiness for those journeys to and from the track. “
Compared to the original RE-71R, the RE-71RS is “new from the ground up,” says Robbins. “The RE-71R was a special tire for us. He was pretty good at everything, but we had to rethink everything… we didn’t need to evolve. So the whole thing is brand new. The shapes, the tread pattern and the tread compound.”
Robbins explains that the essential DNA of the Potenza RE-71R is still there, but Bridgestone engineers were looking for a more robust construction, better heat capacity (absorption) and balance. “It’s really about striking a balance. In this segment, the tires are designed to be driven to and from the event. They are fully DOT certified and can be ridden in light rain… the compound itself is actually better suited to wet surfaces in particular significantly better for wet performance.”
Bridgestone also addressed one of the RE-71R’s shortcomings – the inconsistency during lapping sessions. The previous generation RE-71R offered impressive grip on the first few laps, but the grip changed once the tire got hot. In contrast, the new RE-71RS was “very, very consistent, really from start to finish, which was one of our goals with the tire…to make it really more consistent,” notes Robbins.
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to wring out the RE-71RS at a race track, I did spend a lot of time in the challenging, twisting canyons of Southern California in a slightly modified 18 Volkswagen GTI equipped with a set of the new Bridgestone rubber (225/45- 17 on all four corners) on alloy wheels. The increased driving dynamics, especially compared to the factory all-season tires, was outstanding. The powerful Potenza RE-71RS has completely changed the way the GTI drives in terms of acceleration, braking and cornering.
The front-wheel drive Volkswagen is challenged for grip off the line, as the standard all-season tires grab for traction under hard acceleration. That wasn’t the case with the tackier Bridgestone Potenza, which latched onto the pavement to bring the hatchback forward with little drama. Under hard braking, the RE-71RS tires were equally sticky and delivered significantly more stopping power without tripping the ABS – braking distances were significantly shorter. The Bridgestone tires made the GTI easier and safer to drive as there was far less unintentional wheel spin.
However, the most noticeable improvements come when cornering, where the new Potenza tires deliver sustained cornering grip. Volkswagen dialed in a lot of understeer into the Mk7 chassis (resulting in nose pinching), but with a bit of skill on the three pedals I was able to manage the weight and toss the GTI gracefully through even the tightest of corners. It goes without saying that my speeds were much quicker than with the stock all-season rubber. Most importantly, however, was the newfound confidence that the RE-71RS tires instilled thanks to their constant turn-in and unwavering grip – without protests (no squeaks) from the tires.
Traditionally, high-performance tires come with many compromises – the sidewalls are too stiff, the tread pattern is loud, or they’re treacherous in the rain. Bridgestone addressed all of these concerns because driving the RE-71RS on a daily basis is not challenging. Aside from a little more tire noise (all based on how rough the road surface is), most passengers would hardly notice a difference. The driver in charge of maneuvering benefits from all the advantages!
Upgrading your vehicle’s tires is the most important step an owner can take to improve driving dynamics. For those looking to maximize performance without compromise, Bridgestone’s new high-performance Potenza RE-71RS is a leap in the right direction.