Friday, April 07, 2006

Race tyres Sunday, sell tyres Monday?

Do you ever consider a tyre company’s racing heritage when you roll up to America’s Tire or wherever it is that you get your tyres from? I’m a complete petrolhead, yet racing heritage has very little to do with my tyre choices for either my car or my bike.

Or does it…? Would I put Hoosiers on my car? I don’t think so, they’re American rubbish that are known for sprint cars and midgets. Would I buy Goodyears? Probably not, because when I think Goodyear my knee-jerk reaction is that they are a tyre company of the past. Why? Because I don’t see them involved in racing. But hang on, they’re the tyre provider for NASCAR… True, but that’s not a selling point to me.

When it comes to the bike, what about Metzelers? They’re meant to be very good, yet I never consider them. Why not? Well, I’ve never seen their name in racing, so my subconscious reckons they must be “second tier”.

OK, OK, I give up. Yes, I clearly do make tyre purchase decisions based on racing heritage. So what are tyre companies up to these days?

Michelin: One of two suppliers to Formula 1, but leaving next year; supplier of choice in Le Mans / ALMS / LMES for top teams like Audi and Corvette; supplier of choice in MotoGP; supplier of choice in WRC, although under the BF Goodrich name.

Bridgestone: F1 supplier (only supplier from 2007 onwards); 2nd choice tyre in MotoGP; control tyre in GP2, ChampCar and IRL (as Firestone); supplier of choice in Japanese GT

Dunlop: Tyre of choice in British and AMA Superbike; 3rd choice tyre in MotoGP; control tyre in V8 Supercars, DTM and BTCC; usage in sportscar racing

Pirelli: Control tyre in World Superbike and Supersport; 2nd choice supplier in WRC; usage in sportscar racing

Yokohama: Control tyre for WTCC and Toyota Atlantic; usage in sportscar racing and Japanese GT

Goodyear: Control tyre in NASCAR and Star Mazda; supplier of choice in SCCA club racing

Other manufacturers involved in motor racing include Kumho, Avon, Hankook, Falken and, most notably, Hoosier, who provide the control tire in the Grand Am and Rolex Sportscar Series.

So what does it all mean? When listed out like above, it’s clear that Michelin have the highest profile in international motorsport. Coincidentally their tyres are amongst the most expensive when it comes to the street. Bridgestone are close behind, whilst Dunlop have chosen some high-profile “niche” markets, such as domestic superbike and touring car championships. Pirelli are a small step behind, mainly because unless they’re a control tyre, they tend to not be the tyre of choice in any form of motorsport in which they compete. Yokohama seem to be working hard to establish themselves as a big name in motor racing whilst Goodyear has found a place for itself in NASCAR which, let’s face it, is not bad place to be. The majority of people who follow one form of motorsport in the US will follow NASCAR and will thus perceive Goodyear to be the tyre company in racing.

How all this applies to Joe Bloggs who’s looking for tyres for his car or bike is hard to say. Motor racing does drive tyre development, there’s no question about that, and companies more heavily involved are likely to have higher quality street rubber. But many people are driven purely by price, and the smaller companies who are less involved in racing position their tyres at a lower price point in the market. Not everyone wants high-performance tyres, but even if you’re not after performance I think it’s safe to say that the best, safest and most durable tyres will always come from companies that race and race well.

By the way…. Bridgestone on my bike, Pirelli on our car.

1 comment:

Chox said...'s spelled "tires" not "tyres" here.

Just saying, ya know? blog. If only you were gay and single...I'd so grab you and make you mine... ;-)

Seriously...this is a cool blog. We'll hang out soon.