AKRON (Oct. 8, 2013) — Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C.'s status as the official race tire supplier for three of the four Tudor United SportsCar Racing (USCR) series classes will cut into — but not cut out — Michelin North America Inc.'s and Yokohama Tire Corp.'s involvement in U.S. endurance racing, officials for the tire companies said.
Continental's role as the tire supplier for the USCR's prototype, prototype challenge and GT Daytona classes will mean the end of Michelin's involvement in the prototype classes, where it has claimed 13 titles over the past 14 years
It also will mark the end of Yokohama's 5-year-old supply arrangement for the American Le Mans Series' GTC class for Porsche 911 GT3. Yokohama will, however, continue to be the exclusive tire supplier for the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge, a separate series for Porsche 911 GT3 models that will run races on most USCR race weekends.
Regarding prototypes, Continental said it has agreed to make the specially designed tires for the DeltaWing chassis, which uses smaller and narrower tires, just 4 inches wide in the front, as part of its ultra-low-drag design. The unique chassis design debuted in 2012 on Michelin tires and ran this year on Bridgestone rubber.
Falken, Michelin and Yokohama all said they intend to stay active in the USCR's GT Le Mans class, which carries over from the ALMS GT class and is based on the GTE class recognized internationally and which retains an open tire specification.
The GTLM class pits European GT-class cars like the Aston Martin Vantage, BMW M4 GT, Ferrari F458 and Porsche 911 GT3 against the top U.S. sports cars like Chevrolet Corvette and Chrysler Viper.
"This class is largely home to automotive manufacturer teams that desire flexibility in creating tire partnerships to develop technologies in racing that eventually find their way to the streets," said Scot Elkins, vice president of competition and technical regulations for the International Motor Sports Association, which covers technical matters for the USCR.
"In many cases, these are mutually beneficial partnerships that have been developed and nurtured over several years," Mr. Elkins added.
Michelin said it was "disappointed" to be excluded from competing for overall race wins but "pleased" that there will be open tire competition in the GT-Le Mans class, where it has claimed 13 season titles over the past 14 years.
"We look forward to racing and continuing to work with the USCR and its other stakeholders to explore more mutually beneficial agreements for the years to come," said Chris Baker, director of motorsports for Michelin North America.
"We believe the formation of the USCR will only strengthen an already great support series. Our involvement will not be affected," said Duane Sampson, Yokohama manager, motorsports.
Falken Tire Corp. also plans to continue in the USCR's GTLM class with its own team.
Continental Tire also will return in 2014 as title sponsor and exclusive tire supplier of the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, a developmental series for sports cars and sedans currently sanctioned by Grand-Am Road Racing. Starting next year, the CTSCC and USCR will run under International Motor Sports Association sanctioning, resulting from the merger of Grand-Am, IMSA and the ALMS.
Separately, the USCR announced that Rolex S.A.'s Tudor watch brand will be the series title sponsor for the 2014-2018 seasons and disclosed a five-year multimedia rights deal with Fox Sports.
Rolex has been Grand-Am Racing's title sponsor since 2000.
The Tudor USCR organizers have scheduled 12 races for next year, starting Jan. 25-26 with the 52nd running of the 24 Hours of Daytona at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Fla., and concluding Oct. 4 with the 1,000-kilometer Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta near Braselton, Ga.
The schedule includes many of the most iconic tracks in North America, including Sebring International Raceway, Watkins Glen International, Road America, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Long Beach, Calif., and Belle Isle, Mich., street circuits.
The combined series will make its public debut Jan. 3-5, 2014, and the annual "Roar Before The Rolex 24" test sessions at Daytona Speedway, where the organizers are expecting more than 100 cars will turn out for testing.
The schedule includes a four-week break in June to allow eligible teams the opportunity to compete in the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, France, which is set for June 14-15.