CLERMONT-FERRAND, France (Jan. 4, 2000)—Group Michelin will re-enter worldwide Formula One competition in 2001, competing with Bridgestone Corp. which has been sole tire supplier to that racing series since Goodyear dropped out after the 1998 season.
Michelin will first supply BMW/Williams teams, but will add Toyota teams in 2003. It has not competed in F1 racing since 1984.
Michelin hopes its involvement in F1 will enhance the company´s image globally, said Michelin CEO Edouard Michelin in a written statement.
"Racing, and F1 in particular, present a very strong potential in terms of communicating our technological leadership," he said. "Our entry in F1 will help us reinforce our position in Europe and gain recognition and improve our presence in Asia and South America. It will also increase our racing presence in North America."
The F1 circuit will add the U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2000 season and already runs the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
Bridgestone welcomed Michelin competition in F1.
"We congratulate Michelin on the decision to compete in Formula One," Al Speyer, director of motorsports for Bridgestone´s U.S. subsidiary Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., said in a written statement. "To compete in this level of motorsports you have to have confidence in your technology and people. We know Michelin will provide a significant challenge for us, and we are eager to meet them on some of the world´s finest race circuits."
While Michelin hasn´t been involved in F1 racing, it has continued to compete in Le Mans-type endurance racing and World Rallying and GT competition.
BMW and Michelin won the prototype class section of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race this year in Le Mans, France, and Michelin supplied tires to the winner in the GTS class. Michelin-shod teams also won 18 of 24 races in the inaugural 1999 season of the American Le Mans Series—seven in the prototype class, seven in the GTS class, and four in the GT class—against competitors, such as Goodyear, Pirelli, Yokohama and Dunlop.
Le Mans-style races typically last longer than other types of races and are designed to test the performance of drivers and mechanics over a long period of time on road courses. For instance, the 24 Hours of Le Mans—begun in 1923—requires teams of drivers to drive for 24 hours consecutively. The 1999 winning team ran almost 3,000 miles at an average speed of about 124 mph.
Despite its Le Mans success and re-entry into F1 racing, Michelin has no immediate plans to compete against Bridgestone/Firestone in Indycar racing, such as the Championship Auto Racing Teams circuit or the Indy Racing League, a Michelin North America Inc. spokesman said.
"When you´re looking at racing initiatives, CART and IRL are things you always have to look at," he said. "But, right now, we have no plans to enter CART or IRL."
Michelin manufactures racing tires at its world headquarters in Clermont-Ferrand.
Michelin´s first race in F1 competition was the British Grand Prix in 1977, where it introduced radial tires to the circuit. It won its first victory in 1978 at the Brazilian Grand Prix and exited F1 racing in 1984 after notching 59 victories, three driver´s championships and 2 constructor championships.