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Bridgestone & Champ Car introduce option tire

 Softer compound tire should spice things up
 April 12, 2004

Competition within Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford has never been tighter.  The racecars and talented drivers are so evenly matched that overtaking has become a difficult chore to accomplish, particularly on tight street courses such as Long Beach, Calif., where the series debuts this week with the Toyota Grand Prix. Bridgestone Motorsport has been working with Champ Car officials on ways to enhance the competition, and the exclusive series tire supplier has restructured a concept it believes will deliver new excitement and passing opportunities for 2004.


Optional tire on right will have red markings
Photo courtesy of Bridgestone

The initiative calls for reintroduction of the “option tire,” but with a twist. For this weekend’s event at Long Beach, every entered car receives a total of eight sets of Bridgestone Potenza racing radials (32 total tires). Of those eight sets, six will be of the standard street course specification Bridgestone Motorsport selected for the event. The remaining two sets will consist of a compound offering more grip (a “softer” tire), potentially yielding quicker lap times and the ability to pass slower cars.

Every car in Sunday’s race must use at least one of the “softer” sets of Potenzas at some point within the race, but each team may utilize that option set at its discretion. The idea is for varying race strategies to develop – some drivers on softer tires while others are on the standard spec at the same time – to enhance the competition and entertainment value for fans.

Best of all for those watching from the grandstands and on television is that Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC (BFNT), has developed a new concept for marking the sidewalls of the option tires that will make them immediately visible. That way, everyone will know which drivers are riding on the “softer” Potenzas with the potential increased passing ability.

“We’re doing this for the fans,” said Al Speyer, Executive Motorsports Director for BFNT. “It has been historically difficult to pass on street courses. We have been working with the Bridgestone tires and, in cooperation with Champ Car, have developed this concept we believe will lead to better overtaking opportunities. And we cannot think of a better time and place to unveil the approach than at the series’ most storied event and 2004 season debut venue, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“The Bridgestone brand is entering its third season as the Official Tire of Champ Car, we’re beginning our second year as Presenting Sponsor in this global series and once again we serve as the Official Tire for the Grand Prix of Long Beach. This race is the perfect place for us to unveil this exciting idea.”

The previous option tire plan was popular when there was tire competition in Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. Back then, suppliers would routinely bring two tire specifications and each team chose which spec it would run in the race after testing some of each from its supplier throughout weekend practice. When tire competition ended following the 1999 season, Champ Car and Bridgestone officials agreed it would be more cost-effective to supply a single tire spec each race weekend. Knowing how reliable and consistent the tires supplied by Bridgestone are, teams readily concurred with the change.

Now, in an effort to take the intense competition to a new level, Champ Car officials welcome the option idea Bridgestone Motorsport presented.

“We want to bring more strategy and competition into the Champ Car World Series and our valued partners at Bridgestone have helped us accomplish that with the use of this option tire,” said John Lopes, Champ Car Senior Vice-President of Operations. “We also want to give the fans a way to keep up with these new race strategies, and the different look of the option tires allows fans to see what the teams are doing during the race. We are pleased that Bridgestone has found a way to bring even more excitement to Champ Car racing.”

Champ Car officials will closely monitor the tires to assure teams use the Potenzas properly. Teams may not mix the standard and option sets at any time (a car must have a complete standard or option set on at any time it goes on track). Regulations stipulate that teams must use at least one of the option tire sets in the race, but there is no mandate when or how long the set(s) must be used. Any car running at the end of the race must have used at least one of the option sets during the race or be subject to a one-lap penalty.

“We believe the option tire will add another element of excitement because it will vary the race strategies teams and drivers employ,” Speyer added. “When a team straps on a set of the ‘softer’ Bridgestone Potenzas, and when a driver decides to make a pass on those tires, become an integral part of the race plan. The object is to have some cars on the standard spec Potenza and others on the option spec at the same time, heightening anticipation for overtaking opportunities.

“And fans can follow the action themselves, since the option tires will have a readily identifiable red marking on their sidewalls. The tire marking process is so unique, in fact, that BFNT as applied for a patent on it.”

The option tire plan is being given a trial run this weekend at Long Beach, Speyer said, and its success will be reviewed with Champ Car officials for possible use at future events.

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