If you’re a driving enthusiast, you know your tyres. But how many of these facts about Bridgestone’s best-selling performance tyre do you know?
The Bridgestone Potenza Adrenalin RE003 turns three this year, and it continues to provide thrills to drivers who demand the best for their cars, and thus their tyres.
But the Potenza series itself has a much longer history than three years.
In fact, it spans decades, and the technological progress through all that time has culminated in tyres that have made leap after leap in comfort and performance with each generation.
Yet, while driving enthusiasts swear by their Potenza tyres, how much did you know about one of the most famous tyre model series in motoring history? Here are five facts that might surprise you.
1.Potenza is 39
It’s been 39 years now since the first Bridgestone tyre with the street performance “Potenza” label was released. Far from being a new product line, in other words, Potenza has a long history of steady development and improvement.
To modern eyes, the first Potenza RE47 tyre might not look particularly racy, with its tall sidewall and large tread blocks, but it made use of radial construction at the time when it was still uncommon (bias-ply tyres were still the norm).
That gave it superior handling characteristics, a longer tread life and lower rolling resistance, which in turn provides better fuel efficiency.
Radial construction is now the norm as technology has improved across the tyre industry.
But while normal passenger tyres have gotten better, Potenza tyres have seen technological leaps as well, culminating in the best-selling Potenza Adrenalin RE003 of today.
2. Potenza is an F1-winning label
Formula One racing may be a one-tyre competition now, but during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Bridgestone was locked in fierce competition on the track with another major tyre brand from Europe.
Although active in the lower, “feeder” series for Formula One at the time, Bridgestone decided to graduate to the pinnacle of motor racing in 1998. However, its racing engineers were so well-prepared and confident that the first Potenza F1 tyres actually appeared on cars in 1997 — a full year ahead of schedule!
It didn’t take long for Potenza to make its mark; by 1998 Bridgestone clinched its first championship with McLaren-Mercedes, and triumphed again in 1999.
2001 to 2004 were especially fruitful periods for Potenza, with a run of steady success with Michael Schumacher and Ferraris that ran on Bridgestone tyres. Bridgestone withdrew from the sport in 2010, but to this day, Potenza tyres continue to be supplied as standard equipment on some Ferrari models.
3.There’s more than one Potenza
The Potenza label is reserved for Bridgestone’s most thrilling products. It’s applied to tyres that deliver the ultimate handling and response. But “Potenza” itself doesn’t signify a single model. Instead, it refers to a number of performance tyres.
Trackday enthusiasts swear by the Potenza RE-71R for the best performance and fastest laptimes on their favourite racing circuit, for example.
On the other hand, the flagship Potenza S001 gives excellent performance mixed with a quiet ride and excellent wet-weather performance.
Meanwhile, the Potenza Adrenalin RE003 is considered the best street performance choice, with its responsiveness and confidence-inspiring behaviour.
Other Potenza models offer other characteristics to suit other drivers; the bottom line is, whatever the needs of the driving enthusiast, there is a Potenza tyre to meet it.
4. The Potenza Adrenalin RE003 is Bridgestone’s best-selling street performance tyre
One Potenza tyre stands out as the choice of more keen drivers than others: the Adrenalin RE003.
That might be because it balances the conflicting demands placed on a modern tyre exceptionally well: It has excellent dry and wet weather performance without the short life that some performance tyres have.
It offers quick turn-in response but maintains high-speed stability, thus ensuring that it helps to make a car feel agile without becoming worryingly twitchy. It’s also delivers a quiet, relatively comfortable ride in spite of its street performance.
In fact, the Adrenalin RE003 surpasses the earlier RE002 in nearly all respect — it’s just as quiet as its predecessor, but is measurably superior in terms of wet handling and braking, dry cornering performance, high-speed stability, feedback at the wheel, and even ride comfort.
All that is thanks to the great strides in technology that helped to shape it.
While it’s relatively straightforward for a tyre engineer to create a product that satisfies one or two needs, the Adrenalin RE003 is a prime example of how it takes the best minds in tyre technology to create a tyre that works superbly in all areas at once.
5. Not all a tyre’s technology is hidden
Sometimes it’s not possible to actually see what makes a tyre special — the Potenza Adrenalin RE003’s compound is silica-based (instead of rubber), for example, which helps to improve its wet weather performance while giving it a longer life.
But in some cases the clever ideas behind a street performance tyre are out in plain sight. The Adrenalin RE003 is a great example of this. Many tyres have a rigid centre rib to improve their turn-in response, for example, but you can easily spot how wide the centre rib of the Adrenalin RE003 is — its width helps to make the rib extra rigid, for sharp turn-in as well as superior feel.
The grooves that run along the circumference of a tyre are important, too, and if you look closely at the Adrenalin RE003’s tread, you’ll see it actually has three-and-a-half grooves. That half groove makes all the difference, helping to improve wet braking and cornering performance while letting the tyre wear more evenly (and thus, last longer).
Naturally, the three-and-a-half groove design is a unique feature that helps to improve dry handling, too.
Even the pulsed pattern of the centre groove serves a function: it’s an idea borrowed from racing tyres to improve water drainage and reduce the risk of aquaplaning (when a car hits standing water and momentarily skips or floats over it).
Some features are still in plain view but need a much closer look. The Adrenalin RE003’s grooves are actually cut in a U-shaped pattern, for example. Why? To increase the rigidity of the centre rib, and thereby enhance steering precision.
Even the lug grooves (the short grooves that run nearly perpendicular to the edge of the tyre) have been shortened over those of the RE002; this alone helps to improve traction and improve handling stability, especially during dry cornering.
Of course, just because they’re in plain sight doesn’t mean the Adrenalin RE003’s fine ideas are immediately obvious. You have to know what you’re looking for. Or better yet, you can do what thousands of driving enthusiasts have done: fit a set of Potenza Adrenalin RE003, and simply feel the technology for yourself.