NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Looking to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability, Bridgestone Americas Inc. has engineered and plans to deploy Firestone Firehawk race tires made with guayule-derived natural rubber.
The guayule-based race tires will be used initially in a non-competitive venue — at the Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) — but then will make their competition debut Aug. 6-7 at the Big Machine Music City IndyCar Grand Prix in Bridgestone's headquarters city of Nashville.
The guayule-based Firehawk race tires will be distinguishable by their green sidewalls, Bridgestone said. They will be the "alternative" compound tire at the Nashville race, meaning teams must use them at least once during the 2-plus hour, 174-mile race through the streets of downtown Nashville.
"The introduction of guayule natural rubber to America's pre-eminent open-wheel racing series speaks to the confidence we have in the technology and its promise as a scalable, sustainable and domestic source of our industry's most vital raw material," Nizar Trigui, chief technology officer and group president, Solutions Businesses, Bridgestone Americas, said.
Bridgestone aims to commercialize by 2030 tires made of rubber based on latex from guayule, a heat-tolerant woody shrub that thrives in America's desert southwest.
Bridgestone said it has invested over $100 million in its efforts to commercialize guayule, including funds spent to grow and research the plant at a guayule processing and research center it opened in Mesa, Ariz., in 2012.
In addition, Bridgestone is partnering with IMS and Penske Group to advance sustainable solutions in motorsports by arranging to have Penske Truck Leasing transport all of the Firestone Firehawk tires to be used in the Indy Grand Prix and Indianapolis 500 at IMS in electric-powered Freightline eCascasia trucks.
Bridgestone produces all of its racing tires for the NTT IndyCar Series at production sites in Akron.
These efforts tie into efforts by the IndyCar Series to make May the most sustainable month in the series' history.
In that same vein, IMS has installed a 150kW high power electric charging station at the track to allow for convenient charging, Bridgestone said.
"It will take partnership and collaboration to combat the impacts of global climate change and we are proud to partner with Penske, INDYCAR and IMS to advance the future of sustainable mobility," Trigui said.