Kumho Tire Co. Inc. is exploring the possibility of becoming a tire supplier for Formula 1 by as early as 2007.
The South Korean tire maker-which has turned increasingly in recent years to motorsports to promote its brand worldwide-has budgeted $25 million to develop a tire. The company, the world's 11th largest tire maker with fiscal 2003 sales of nearly $1.4 billion, already has begun to implement changes in its research and development and production facilities in order to begin in-house testing by next year.
If the initial R&D and testing go as planned, the company said it would be ready for full F1 team testing in 2006 and 2007. Bridgestone Corp. and Group Michelin supply tires to the Formula 1 racing series, with Bridgestone equipping the driver's champion the last five years.
In a prepared statement, Kumho said developing an F1 tire program would provide a platform for it to promote its technological capability and quality to a worldwide audience.
The Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA), the sanctioning body for F1, states in its regulations that any tire company wishing to supply tires must notify the FIA of its intention to do so no later than Jan. 1 of the year preceding the year during which such tires will be supplied.
The FIA also stipulates that if there are three or more tire suppliers competing, each of them must, if called upon to do so, be prepared to equip up to 40 percent of the entered teams ``on ordinary commercial terms.'' When two tire firms compete, as is the case now, each must be able to supply up to 60 percent of the teams.
Kumho has been active in motorsports since 1992 and achieved its first international success in Formula 3, first in Asia and then more recently in Europe. In 2003, for example, the firm was named the spec tire for the F3 Euro Series.