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Bridgestone's New Ultra-performance Tires: Potenza RE-011, Potenza S-04 Pole position, Potenza RE970AS Pole Position

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High performance cars deserve extreme performance tires; We test the new Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position super tire.

By Thom Cannell
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Detroit Bureau

If you own a high performance car—Corvette, BMW M, Porsche, a modified Miata, hot rod Civic, even a Lamborghini—you struggle with tire buying decisions. Should you fit it with street-legal racing tires with their comparatively short life, ultrahigh performance summer-only tires, or give up a smidgeon of cornering ability and buy premium performance all season tires? Bridgestone recently introduced new tires suited for each of these segments.

For the few, those for whom frequent tire replacement is less an issue than maximizing every early apex and daily track-in and track-out practice, there is Bridgestone’s Potenza RE-011 ultra performance tire. Simply put, nothing other than race tires will corner or brake with similar grip. The Potenza RE-011 features massive tread blocks on the outside edges to enhance cornering stability, deep cuts and center grooves for water evacuation, and a casing that varies in construction from outside to inside to optimize handling. It’s Formula 1 and Formula 2 racing technology for the street.

Less exotic, yet sticky as yesterday’s Bazooka bubble gum is the new Potenza S-04 Pole Position. We tested the Potenza S-04 Pole Position against premium competitors at Firebird Raceway. Mounted on identical fiercely supercharged Audi S4s there were easily discernible differences compared between the Potenza S-04 Pole Position and a highly rated Pirelli tire.

We found that, when driven deeply into sharp corners, we could go a bit deeper, with more control when the Potenza S-04 Pole Position were on the Audi. Despite creating understeer with heavy braking and late turn-in, the Potenza S-04 Pole Position always gave us the extra meter or two of control. Any autocrosser would improve his or her times. Similarly, and hugely important to autocrossers or any enthusiast, in slaloms we had quicker and more predictable response, and greater control. Instead of initiating smooth sine wave sweeps, we slammed the car between pylons with enough violence to bruise back seat occupants. Overall, the Potenza S-04 Pole Position handled transients—the moments between initiating a turn-in or turn-out—better and more predictably than the very competent competitor.

If you need bent eyeballs and seatbelt bruises aplenty, a set of Potenza S-04 Pole Position tires will deliver Spiderman stick. But, you absolutely must mount winter tires in snowy northern climes.

All Weather maximum performance enthusiast tire: Potenza RE970AS Pole Position

Bridgestone says their new Potenza RE970AS Pole Position is an ultra high performance all weather tire that gets better wear than the outgoing RE960AS, and is optimized for wet and dry weather handling. The tread compound (the rubber) contains generous amounts of silica, which creates micro-gripping edges on the surface. It also has big blocks of rubber at the shoulders for cornering stability. In the center, a continuous rib yields steering responsiveness. In between, the tread blocks are asymmetric for noise reduction and are heavily siped (cut) for better traction and braking.

Compared to a very highly rated Michelin tire, the Potenza RE970AS Pole Position had more wet traction in every way. Mounted on identical BMW 328s and driven on a wet skid pad, the Potenza RE970AS Pole Position turned in better, had more braking ability, offered more grip, and provided better steering feel. For most drivers of high performance vehicles who want to experience high cornering ability while preserving wet weather traction and snow traction, a tire like this is likely the best compromise.

The W-rated Potenza RE970AS Pole Position is now on sale in 21 sizes; 13 more are promised this quarter.

With three tires aimed at enthusiasts, those of us unafraid of screeching, smoking tires should find one that fits our needs, budget, weather, and our very special car.