RICHBURG, S.C. — Giti Tire U.S.A. Ltd.'s engagement as a tire supplier to Formula Drift competition is more than a promotional vehicle for the brand; it's become a source of pride among the workforce at the firm's Richburg plant, where the tires were designed and are produced.
This past season, workers had numerous occasions to cheer, as six drivers chose to compete on the company's Champiro SX2 RS radials manufactured at the Richburg plant. Two of the drivers — former series champion Chris Forsberg and Dylan Hughes — scored podium finishes on their way to finishing sixth and seventh in the championship.
- This story appears in the Jan. 17 print edition of Tire Business.
The Giti-backed drivers' collective scoring earned the brand third place in the Formula Drift "Tire Cup" behind Nitto and Falken but ahead of Nexen and Federal.
Giti officials keep plant employees connected to the racing program by arranging to have the drivers and their cars appear at the plant, signing autographs, posing for photos and answering questions. In addition, the company arranged for several employees to attend Formula Drift events throughout the season.
David Shelton, director of industry relations for Giti Tire USA and resident "gear head," said drifting competitors asked the company to develop a version of the Champiro SX2 ultra-high-performance street tire specifically for professional drifting competition.
"A good drifting tire has progressive breakaway behavior and recovery, along with outstanding grip to accelerate off the corners," Shelton said. "Drivers accelerate to high speeds at the beginning of their run, then 'toss' the car sideways headed into a chicane. They glide through the corner sideways in a 'dance' with their competitor. They then need to regain traction, 'hook-up' and pull away from the competitor while exiting the corner."
The engineers at the Giti R&D Center in Richburg, in conjunction with Giti's global R&D centers, examined the tire structure, carcass shape, components and compounds. The resulting Champiro SX2 RS retains all the strong points of the original SX2, but a competition tread compound was developed to refine the tire's performance. Other modifications were made to handle the rigors of extreme drifting competition.
2022 will be Giti's third year of competing in Formula Drift since it announced its return to the series in 2019. Last year Formula Drift designated Giti as the spec tire supplier for the series' PROSPEC Championship, a second-tier series designed for drivers looking to gain experience and move up to the Pro series.
In addition to winning the Formula Drift Tire Cup last year for a second straight year, Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. supplied tires to the series' Pro Championship winner, Fredric Aasbo.
The 2022 season comprises eight weekend racing events, starting April 1-2 on the streets of Long Beach, Calif., and concluding Oct. 14-15 at Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, Calif.