Wow, this was a quick backtrack.
About a week after announcing it would not supply tires to the IZOD IndyCar Series past 2011, Bridgestone Firestone announced today it would continue as the sole tire supplier through 2013.
Which is very good news, indeed, as INDYCAR will introduce a new chassis and aero package for 2012 and any new tire manufacturer would be hard-pressed in the short term to design and test rubber for such a car.
Here is the text of the announcement late this morning:
“Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC (BATO) and INDYCAR have announced that Firestone will continue to serve as the sole tire supplier to the IZOD IndyCar Series through the 2013 race season.
"Late last week the companies announced that they would allow the Firestone sponsorship and supply contract to expire at the end of the 2011 season.
"At the end of last week, we had reached the deadline where both organizations had to make a decision regarding the future to prepare our individual operations for the long term," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR.
"This is one of those decisions that it is imperative that you have the team owners 100 per cent behind you. Early this week, we called a meeting to walk the team owners through the process and hear their input. I'm happy to say we walk as one with Firestone.
"We feel that this new supply agreement will benefit everyone. It provides a proven safe and reliable Firestone product for the transition to the all-new cars for 2012. We have to thank everyone at Firestone for working with us to help ensure the best for the long-term growth of our sport," Bernard concluded.
"INDYCAR called a meeting to inform the team owners of Firestone's departure," said Dennis Reinbold, Team Owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
"When we learned of this, we encouraged INDYCAR to check with Firestone to see if there might be any chance to continue. We feel that it is important to maintain continuity with their excellent tires as we transition to the new car for 2012.
“The team owners are collectively very relieved that Firestone had an open mind and that they were able to reach this agreement with INDYCAR. Firestone racing tires are not only important from a safety and reliability standpoint, but they contribute greatly to the wheel-to-wheel competition for which our sport is famous."
"We are pleased that we were able to reach this agreement with INDYCAR," said Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing.
"As we prepare to celebrate our involvement in the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (May 29), we are also focused on the future and the great opportunities that lie ahead. While we've reached the pinnacle of success in the IndyCar racing, we're happy to extend our relationship with the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2013, and to continue our winning partnership.
“Meanwhile, we will continue to evaluate all options for promoting the Firestone brand inside and outside of motorsports, as the Firestone Brand is a very important part of our business."
Firestone has supplied tires to the IZOD IndyCar Series since 1996.
“The new agreement does not include Firestone Indy Lights, the developmental series for drivers and teams striving to reach the top level of open-wheel racing in North America.
“Firestone will remain as title sponsor and tire supplier of the development series throught 2011.”
It won’t be hard to get a tire manufacturer for the Lights series. Cooper Tires is heavily involved in the INDYCAR ladder system, so will quite likely step in for 2012.
I will also suggest it’s going to cost the INDYCAR teams a lot more money for tires than it has. Drivers bringing money to teams will be particularly affected by this new deal.