MELKSHAM, England (April 21, 2010) — The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has approached Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Avon Tyres Motorsports business about the possiblity of supplying the FIA's Formula 1 world championship with tires starting next year.
“As a major motorsport tire manufacturer, Cooper Tire, through its Avon Tyres Motorsport operation, has been approached to supply Formula 1,” the company said in a prepared statement. “The company is in discussion with the relevant parties and cannot comment further at this stage.”
The FIA, organizer of the global Formula 1 championship for single-seat, open-wheel racing, is working to secure a race tire supply contract for next year and beyond. Bridgestone Corp., the sole tire supplier for the past four seasons, told the FIA last year that it would end its tire supply contract after the 2010 season.
Officially, no tire company has tendered a bid to take over the contract. Prior to the 2007 season, F1 maintained open competition among tire companies.
Bridgestone said last fall its decision to withdraw—ending the tire maker's 14-year relationship with the FIA as an F1 tire supplier—will allow it to redirect its resources toward developing innovative technologies and strategic products that support the tire maker's goals and enhance its reputation as a technology leader.
The FIA's contact with Cooper/Avon apparently is linked with plans floated by FIA principals to several teams that the FIA contract with a manufacturer like Avon Tyres to produce a spec tire according to the FIA's specifications.
Stories to this effect surfaced in the motorsports press following the recent Chinese Grand Prix. The same media reported Group Michelin also has been discussing the contract with the FIA.
Avon Tyres has an active race tire design and manufacturing unit at its Melksham headquarters/plant. As recently as two years ago it supplied racing tires to the A1GP series—a racing series with cars similar to F1 albeit with a spec chassis and lower powered spec engine.
Avon is supplying race tires this year to a variety of motorsports venues wordwide, including Cooper-branded tires for the IMSA Lites and USF2000 championships in the U.S.
To find a new supplier, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council votes to appoint a single tire supplier and then instructs the FIA's Secretariat to organize a tendering process, according to FIA guidelines.
The tender is communicated to relevant manufacturers, and any company interested can then request a dossier from the FIA, which includes a form for a bid and contractual terms.
The guidelines state that interested parties send their sealed tenders by a deadline to the office of an independent Huissier de Justice. The FIA then selects the most competitive offer.