NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. minced no words in its response to Goodyear's departure from the CART and IRL circuits: The tire wars have ended. The Nashville-based tire maker hailed the announcement as a cause for celebration for its Firestone racing operations, but conceded it would have prefered Goodyear stay.
``We're extremely disappointed Goodyear has chosen to withdraw from two more of the top forms of open-wheel competition,'' said Al Speyer, director of motorsports. ``We know their losses, particularly in the Formula 1 and Championship Auto Racing Teams series, were difficult to endure.''
BFS hopes it will have competition again soon—if not from Goodyear, then maybe Michelin North America Inc., he said.
Michelin currently participates in the American LeMans series in North America and has no plans to enter CART or IRL, a Michelin spokesman said, but the company will ``keep an open mind about it'' and not rule out the possibility of entering those circuits or Formula 1 in the future.
BFS had suspected that Goodyear might withdraw from CART and already had budgeted for 2000 with the belief it would be the only tire supplier, Mr. Speyer said. Still, BFS was surprised by Goodyear's decision because the Akron-based tire maker had won six events in 1999—including the Indianapolis 500—to BFS' four.
While Goodyear has questioned the return on its motorsports investment, BFS is satisfied with the exposure and value it receives from racing in CART and IRL, Mr. Speyer said, nor does it believe supplying both series will be financially burdensome.
BFS entered the CART series in 1995—the first time Goodyear had any competition since 1974—when the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. left Indycar racing.
In 1996, Firestone-shod cars won 10 of 16 CART events, won the CART championship and tied for the IRL championship. Then Firestone drivers claimed 13 of 17 CART victories in 1997.
Overall, drivers using Firestones have won four consecutive CART championships and three IRL championships.
BFS will now shift its focus to aligning with winning drivers promoting its Firestone Firehawk to consumers in ads and other racing promotions, Mr. Speyer said.