The old adage about one door opening when another closes couldn't be more true when applied to Kumho Tire USA Inc.'s efforts in American LeMans Series (ALMS) competition.
Kumho started the year, its second in ALMS, with Miracle Motorsports, a former championship-winning team. After the first race, however, Miracle Motorsports' owners decided to focus on endurance races only (those lasting six hours or longer), leaving Kumho without a full-time team for 2006.
That situation was remedied quickly, though, when B-K Motorsports-the de facto Mazda Motorsports ``factory'' team in the ALMS LMP-2 category-and Kumho hooked up for the remainder of the season, and perhaps longer.
``It's no secret Mazda would like to return to LeMans and go for another victory there,'' said John Doonan, manager, motorsports team development, Mazda North American Operations, speaking about the classic LeMans 24 Hour class run every June in central France. Mazda is the only Japanese manufacturer to have won the race, taking victory in 1991 with a rotary-engined prototype.
``With the launch of the RX-8 a few years ago,'' Mr. Doonan said, ``we got back into development of the four-rotor engine, which opened the door for us to consider going back to LeMans.''
If things work out well with Kumho, he said, the two could end up being partners in that attempt. The partnership doesn't end at the race track, though.
``It turns out our demographics and Kumho's are quite similar,'' he said, ``and our dealers had already been asking about stocking Kumho tires before we struck this (racing) deal.''
If terms can be worked out, he added, Mazda North America plans to start offering its dealers in the U.S. Kumho's range of performance tires.
Longer term, the arrangement could evolve into original equipment fitments for Kumho, the firms said.
B-K Motorsports so far has been pleased with the switch to Kumho, team officials said. B-K previously ran on Goodyear.
As for Kumho's deal with Miracle Motorsports, it is supporting the team for this year's 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race in France, June 17-18.
Kumho gets all its racing tires from South Korea.