What is Firestone bringing to the table in IndyCar negotiations?

Jan. 18, 2011

There is a lot of conjecture on the web about how much money is involved in the Firestone contract with the IndyCar Series. But beyond the money what are the nuts and bolts involved in being the tire supplier to theIndycar series?

The series in 2011 will contest 17 races in an international calendar spanning events in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Japan as well as three open tests in the U.S.A.

IndyCar racers run on bespoke tires designed to handle the extreme and varied conditions of ovals, road and street courses. In 2010 eight different compounds were developed over what is a season-long design and testing program. A similar test program is in place for this season.

MTD spoke with Darla Elkins, Firestone Motorsports Manager about how these very special tires are distributed on a per car basis.

Of the 17 races eight are oval tracks and each race car is allotted eight sets of tires. There are two exceptions this season. At the Texas Motor Speedway because of the twin race format nine sets will be given to each car and at Loudon’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway 12 sets will be allotted per car as this is a new track on the schedule and an extra margin for safety is added.

For the Indianapolis 500 there is another distribution system. Racers running the full Indy program of qualifying and the race will get 33 sets if tires. Teams chosing to run a partial program are allotted 26 sets. In addition drivers doing a reorientation program are given 2 sets and rookies get 4 sets to use during the rookie tests.

The road course/street course events run rain or shine and the rules require each racer to use two different compounds during a dry race. The allotment of tires for these types of races reflect this with nine sets, six primary and three optional (dry compounds) and five sets of wet tires distributed to each race car.

In summary, a hypothetical racer doing the entire Indy 500 program and having no rain races will use 700 tires during race weekends in 2011.

When you consider the manpower and resources involved in engineering and developing these race tires, then transporting them and the entire race support system around the world, it’s easy to see that negotiating a contract is going to be a complicated and very important project for all involved.
In reflecting on this information one can’t help but wonder what a tire manufacturer hopes to achieve with an expenditure of this magnitude. But that is for another day.