Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.
Kumho will participate in various motorsports events throughout 2014. In Germany, Kumho said it will be sponsoring the Twin Busch Team, driving an Audi LMS R8 Ultra, in the VLN series that runs March through October.
The company also will be supplying the Auto GP World Series, the China Touring Car Championship in China, the Master of F3 in the Netherlands in July and the CJ Super Race Series in South Korea.
A company spokeswoman said Kumho has a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) contingency award program for Solo (Autocross) and regional club racing in which drivers sign up, then receive awards if they place in a race.
The tire marketer also has a contingency program for the Porsche Owners Club in the Southern California region. Similar to its SCCA contingency, drivers receive awards if they place in a race while running on Kumho tires, according to the spokeswoman.
In the arena of new product development, she said Kumho has an Ecsta XS replacement tire in development, with plans to release it in the first quarter of 2015. It will be targeted at SCCA autocross and weekend racers.
The company also has a number of individual drivers it sponsors in SCCA national and regional club racing, she added.
"We are very excited to continue our support of grassroots motorsports as we enter the new year," the spokeswoman said. "Kumho has a long history of involvement in grassroots racing and we believe that a strong motorsports program is essential to our company's success."
Kumho also will be ramping up its outreach efforts in preparation for 2015 when, according to the spokeswoman, the com¬pany plans to release its Ecsta V720 tire—"the replacement to our popular Ecsta XS.
"When it is released in the first quarter of 2015, we are confident that the Ecsta V720 will be one of the fastest street tires available to grassroots racers," she said.
"To support the tire's launch, we are planning a number of events across the country, including ride-and-drives and increased sponsorship opportunities. We will also be sending motorsports staff to a number of events to support the new product and talk to racers about the technology that will make the Ecsta V720 the tire that they will want to race on in the 2015 season."
Michelin North America Inc. (MNA) said it is developing breakthroughs in racing tire development both with its Michelin and BFGoodrich racing tires.
The company is working on an 18-inch rim diameter racing tire for the FIA Formula e designed with a tread pattern that can be used in dry or wet conditions.
The tire maker also plans to continue development of a methodology it debuted mid last year in which the tire designers custom-grooved the tire treads at the track to adapt to changing conditions.
Motorsports has yielded a better understanding of tire function and tire technology (materials, inflated shape, etc.) which has had a major impact on its consumer products, such as the Pilot Super Sport and Pilot Sport All Season 3 lines, said Chris Baker, motorsports director for MNA.
"There is something new coming that is generating more buzz than, frankly, anyone in the motorsports community could have expected," Mr. Baker said. "The new FIA Formula e championship will come to North America in 2015 (in Miami and in Los Angeles), but the global race season kicks off in September of 2014 in Beijing.
Meanwhile, he said Michelin's BFGoodrich brand "will increase its engagement in short (closed)-course off-road racing during 2014. This type of racing presents a very particular technical challenge for us in terms of off-road traction."
Last year during the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, Michelin introduced a tire technology and at-track methodology that allowed the tire maker to custom-groove BFGoodrich slicks for its Pro-2 and Pro-4 teams on-site as a function of track and ambient conditions.
"This approach allowed us to adapt our tire solutions in close collaboration with our race team partners. We learned a lot via this approach and we will continue to develop the methodology throughout the 2014 racing season," Mr. Baker said.
Michelin is participating in several racing series this year, including:
- Dakar cross-country rally in South America;
- FIA World Rally Championship;
- The new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the result of the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Series. "The GT Le Mans class is the only 'open tire' class in this championship and we are heavily involved with our technical partners Corvette Racing, SRT/Viper, BMW Team RLL, Porsche Motorsport North America, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Aston Martin Racing," Mr. Baker said; and
- FIA World Endurance Championship."Top-level endurance racing, such as the TUDOR Championship and WEC, is an ideal fit for Michelin," he said. "We are constantly striving to provide long-wearing, low-energy-consumption, high-traction, terrific-driving tire solutions for everyone—not just racers."
He noted that Michelin has had a successful run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1998 and has increased the longevity of its race tires by a factor of three. "In fact, at Le Mans alone in the last three years, we've reduced our consumption of tires by fully 25 percent—-all while going faster than we ever have before."
In North America, Michelin will race in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Canada by Michelin series while the BFGoodrich brand will race in:
- SCCA Pro Racing's Mazda MX-5 Cup;
- Best in the Desert series;
- SCORE International; and
- Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.
North America is the only geographic zone in the world in which Group Michelin races at a high level with both its Michelin and BFGoodrich brands, according to Mr. Baker.
Michelin has adopted a three-pillar approach to its global motorsports strategy, and "each one of them may have a higher priority than the other two at any given time, simply as a function of the particular motorsports opportunity in front of us," he said.
- Pillar 1: Racing supports the brands to reinforce what they stand for.
- Pillar 2: Racing provides technology development and deployment. "We say that, for us, racing is our 'lab within the lab.'
"It is a technology-discovery ecosystem, enabling transfer to our consumer product offers for our Michelin and BFGoodrich brands," Mr. Baker said.
- Pillar 3: Racing operates as a small business that supports the main business of delivering better mobility.
"Globally, over the last two years, Group Michelin has consolidated its global motorsports organization into a more coherent effort that is well-aligned with the company's growth ambitions—and this includes not only the mature economies of Western Europe and North America, but also the Group's efforts in what are commonly referred to as the 'developing economies,' such as Asia, South America and Eastern Europe.
"We now have 'formal' motorsports arms in Europe, North America and in Asia and they are focused, on-mission and making progress," Mr. Baker added.
Pirelli Tyre S.p.A. has ramped up its already crowded motorsports calendar for 2014, rejoining the World Rally Championship circuit after a three-year hiatus and broadening its support of GT road racing in Europe and North America.
At the top of the ladder, the Federation International de l'Automobile renewed Pirelli's Formula 1 race tire supply contract for three more seasons, including some key caveats designed to improve safety and performance levels.
This extension goes hand in hand with Pirelli's "multiple" season race tire supply commitment to the GP2 and GP3 single-seat, open-wheel racing series—both "feeder series" for Formula 1.
Among the changes in the renewed F1 contract are: one of the 12 days of official pre-season testing will be dedicated exclusively to wet weather tire testing; and each team must dedicate one its sanctioned eight days of in-season testing exclusively to tire testing.
In North America, Pirelli's title contract and race tire partnership with the Pirelli World Challenge Championship was extended for five more years.
Scott Bove, president and CEO of WC Vision, the Arlington-based series organizer, called the extension a "strong bond between our two brands," and Rafael Navarro, vice president, communications, media relations and motorsports for Pirelli, called it "natural fit because that absolute passion is shared by WC Vision and the manufacturers, teams and drivers that compete in the series."
Pirelli took over as the series' tire supplier in October 2010 and added the title sponsorship role in March 2011.
The extension through the 2018 season continues an integrated sponsorship program that includes in-market activation, and multi-platform, cross-promotional efforts, WC Vision said.
The Pirelli World Challenge features five classes of competition for a variety of production-based sports cars and sports sedans, including a new touring class, dubbed TCA that is an evolution of the existing TCB class with an emphasis on maintaining cost effectiveness.
Pirelli also is supporting the FIA GT Series in Europe, whose classes are similar to the World Challenge. The GT series has both sprint and endurance championships.