Up to Speed: Yokohama gets screen time in new movie

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The live-action movie version of "Speed Racer" comes to a theater near you today (May 9) -- on Yokohama tires.

As part of a product placement deal between Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Yokohama Advan tires are the official tire of the racing movie. Although Emile Hirsch stars as the title character, the film's technological "star" is the Mach 5 race car.

Yokohama's North American manufacturing arm, Yokohama Tire Corp., promoted today's event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. The Yokohama and BP America Inc. Mazda LMP2 race car featured "Speed Racer" movie logos as well as the famous letter "M" on the front. Drivers Ben Devlin and Gerardo Bonilla wore specially-designed suits inspired by the movie.

In the ultimate nod to the Mach 5, the LMP2 race car's number was changed from 8 to 5 exclusively for race. It also will be the number 5 car at the Grand Prix of Utah on May 18.

Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon and Matthew Fox were on hand to promote the film at the Toyota Grand Prix. Hirsch and Fox acted as co-Grand Marshalls of the American Le Mans Series race.

"This is a special opportunity to link Yokohama's motorsports efforts with the promotion of a major motion picture like 'Speed Racer,'" said Fred Koplin, Yokohama Tire's director of marketing communications, at the Long Beach race.

"Away from the racetrack, there is presence with a national television campaign (through Saturday, May 10) and in-store promotions with Advantage Yokohama Associate Dealers."

"Speed Racer," based on the 1960s Japanese animation series "Mach Go Go Go," is the latest Hollywood film by the Wachowski brothers, known for their direction of the "Matrix" trilogy of films. The brothers wrote the Speed Racer script and are directing the movie.

The Mach 5, fitted with Yokohama tires, was shown to the international media for the first time at a press conference on May 31, 2007.

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