IndyCar in tyre u-turn

Indycar

In a remarkable turnaround, Bridgestone/Firestone announced last Friday that the company’s Firestone brand will continue as the exclusive tyre supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series until 2013. The announcement was made just seven days after the company formally revealed it was pulling out of the IndyCar series at the end of this year…

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The move was precipitated by IndyCar’s team owners insisting to series CEO Randy Bernard that he broker a deal with Bridgestone/Firestone. Bernard was considering a switch to Continental or Cooper tyres, but the team owners made it clear that they didn’t believe a change could be made on such short notice. The owners also emphasised to Bernard that they don’t believe any other tyre manufacturer can equal the high quality and safety of Bridgestone/Firestone’s tyres.

“The team owners are collectively very relieved that Firestone had an open mind and that they were able to reach this agreement with IndyCar,” said Dennis Reinbold (below with Tomas Scheckter), co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. “Firestone’s racing tyres are not only important from a safety and reliability standpoint, but they contribute greatly to the wheel-to-wheel competition for which our sport is famous.”

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Since Bridgestone/Firestone entered Indycar racing in 1995 the company has never suffered a tyre failure, other than through punctures by debris. The bulletproof reliability of Bridgestone/Firestone’s tyres is something everyone in IndyCar has come to rely on. In contrast, Goodyear’s spec tyre programme in NASCAR has been and continues to be riddled with failures in many races. Continental has also had troubles in this its first year as the spec tyre supplier to Grand-Am.

Bridgestone/Firestone has also developed a reputation for producing tyres that perform identically from set to set. Quality control and consistency in both performance and dimensions have been bywords for the company, and it has done a tremendous job building tyres for the wide range of tracks Indycars race on from street circuits to superspeedways.

Back in 1995-99 Bridgestone/Firestone drove Goodyear out of CART and the IRL by utterly outperforming its rival. It took four years for all the teams to make the switch and for Bridgestone/Firestone to become the sole tyre supplier in both CART/Champ Car and the IRL. Over the past 16 years the team owners have learned to deeply appreciate Bridgestone/Firestone’s products, and after considering a switch to another tyre company Bernard seems to have taken on board the same lesson.

“We feel that this new supply agreement will benefit everyone,” he said. “It provides a safe and reliable product for the transition to the all-new cars for 2012. We have to thank everyone at Firestone for working with us to help ensure the best for the long-term growth of our sport.”

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Bridgestone/Firestone’s Amercian racing boss Al Speyer (above with Helio Castroneves) says he hopes the agreement will continue until the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. The deal does not extend to the Indy Lights series, however. The Lights cars will race on Firestones this year, but will have to find a new brand for next season.

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