Korean tire maker Kumho eyes F1 (Update) UPDATE Kumho Tires has given further confirmation of its long term aspiration to create a tire for the pinnacle of motor sport, after completing a full-scale three-day test of its prototype F1 spec tires at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona.
The Kumho tests were carried out using an Auto GP car with a range of drivers including former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan, Auto GP frontrunner Kevin Giovesi and Sung Hak Moon, the first Korean to drive in Formula 2 and who is considered Korea's fastest racer and best hope of making it to F1.
The tests were part of an ongoing research and development program for Kumho which started with the production of its first F1 spec tire in 2007.
Kumho says the latest test brings it closer to the world's premier motor racing championship and puts it in a strong position to be able to supply the premier category if the opportunity arises in the near future.
According to Bong Young Son, Kumho's director of research and development, the company believes that its technology has reached a level that will enable it to compete with the leading global tire brands in the F1 tire market.
"Kumho is the Korean tire company that is the closest to F1 in in terms of technology and capabilities, and this program is part of our mission to constantly test our products on real cars and constantly strive to improve our products to help us achieve our long held goal of supplying the F1 industry," said Bong Young Son.
Kumho is one of only five tire makers in the world today that possesses the advanced technology to manufacture F1 tires at the ultimate level of technology.
Kumho first stated an interest in F1 as long ago as 2004 and has been seen as a potential replacement for tire suppliers in the category ever since.
According to Kumho Tire Australia national marketing and training manager, David Basha, Formula One has been a long-term goal for Kumho.
"Every prestige car manufacturer and supplier wants to be involved in Formula One and Kumho has been working towards it through our involvement in motorsport since the 1990s," said Basha.
Kumho is no stranger to junior open wheel formula, having been sole supplier to the F3 European series in the past and sees motorsport at all levels as a means of both developing its product and enhancing its image.
"We are a relative newcomer, with the shortest history among any of the top ten global tire makers and we need to compete in the global market with our technical power," said Kumho global CEO Jong-Ho Kim.
"Motor sport is the area where we can showcase our capabilities and this test demonstrates we are now ready for the challenge of F1 and we will wait for an opportunity to enter the F1 market," he added.
The car used for the Catalunya tests is from the Auto GP category, which uses a 615kg open wheeled car powered by a 3.4litre V8 with more than 550 horsepower.
The circuit is a prime track for tire testing because of the strain it subjects tires to with its range of high and medium speed corners, long straights and high ambient temperatures.
Kumho is currently the sole supplier to Auto GP, French Formula Four, as well as the Australian and European Masters Formula Three Championships. Pitpass.com10/01/10 (GMM) Kumho has signaled its intention to enter formula one in the future.
The South Korean tire marque, despite having no previous F1 experience, is believed to have written a letter of intent to the FIA when it emerged that Bridgestone had decided to leave the sport at the end of 2010.
Ultimately, Pirelli won the tender to be F1's sole tire supplier in 2011-2013.
But Kumho Tires' chief executive Jong-Ho Kim said it is at the pinnacle of motor sport that the young brand will demonstrate its technical abilities.
"As we are a relative newcomer with the shortest history among the global top ten tire makers, we need to compete in the global market with our technical power, and motor sports is the area where we can show off our capabilities," he told Tires and Accessories magazine.
Kumho is already a big player in the F3 world, and Kim said the next target is formula one.
"We already completed the development of F1 tires in 2007 and now watch for an opportunity to enter into the F1 market as well," he said.
Hankook is another Korean tire maker linked recently with F1, but Kim insisted Kumho is "the only Korean company to own technology to produce tires for F1 vehicles".