If you’re a fan of American open wheel racing like me, this may not be good news: Firestone has missed an “intent to notify” deadline with the IndyCar series, which would have indicated their intent to stay on as the sole tire vendor to the series. Instead, their current contract will expire at the end of the 2011 season, leaving IndyCar (temporarily, at least) without a tire supplier for the 2012 season. Both Bridgestone (parent to Firestone) and Goodyear also have previous experience with American open-wheeled racing, but neither vendor has supplied tires in recent years.
The 2012 season is a long way off, but tire development for a specific series is usually a lengthy trial and error process. Fans of F1 remember the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis all too well; Michelin realized, at the event, that their tires weren’t capable of going the race distance. All teams running Michelin tires retired after the parade lap, which left only three teams running Bridgestone tires in the race. Even computer modeling, it seems, is insufficient for the data gathering required to build race tires.
There will be plenty of tire companies interested in stepping up to the plate, and Michelin, Hankook, Goodyear Kumho and Pirelli are all likely candidates. Bridgestone, on the other hand, appears to be distancing themselves from motorsports to concentrate on a more “mainstream” audience. The company is sponsoring the Super Bowl halftime show and is investing heavily in NHL, MLB and PGA Tour advertising.