Race tire technology drives consumer tire innovation
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“Drivers, start your engines!” Those four words have always held significance at the race track, but in 2016, even more so. On May 29, they will mark the beginning of an important milestone: the 100th running of the iconic Indianapolis 500.
For legacy tire brand Firestone, part of Bridgestone Corporation, the 100th Indy 500 represents a century of race tire technology and innovation — innovation that drives the development of the consumer car and truck tires that we drive on today.
Billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indy 500 is the sport’s most famous and prestigious event, and it ranks as the world’s largest single-day sporting event, drawing more than 375,000 spectators annually. Loud and long, the Indy 500 is a grueling 200-lap marathon around the 2.5-mile legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A century of race tire innovation
Since Ray Harroun’s victory in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, Firestone has earned more Indy 500 victories (66) than all other tire manufacturers in the world combined. 2016 will mark the brand’s 15th season as the Official Tire of the Verizon IndyCar Series and its 67th Indy 500 victory. As it does every year, Firestone is leading offseason efforts to ensure its ultra high performance race tires are optimized to meet the demands of Indy car racing.
From the race track to the road
Last August, engineers and tire technicians from Bridgestone Americas made their way to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to carefully monitor how their race tires were performing. In addition to aiming to improve race tires for future races, they seek to transfer race tire technology into Bridgestone and Firestone consumer tires.
“Racing is the ultimate proving ground for our tire technologies, and it helps our company develop and test improvements to the fundamental materials we use to build our tires for everyday driving,” said Mike Martini, president, original equipment, U.S. and Canada Consumer Tire Sales Divisions, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “The extreme conditions of racing push tires to their ultimate limits, and we are able to use that data to engineer more advanced, more innovative consumer tire solutions that meet the needs of automakers and drivers.”
Handling, durability and performance
Professional race car drivers demand many of the same tire performance attributes that everyday road warriors need when they are driving through neighborhoods, city streets and highways.
Take the Bridgestone ultra high performance Potenza tire line as an example. The tire was engineered as a race tire for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Supercar Series in the early 1990s. Firestone engineers took the knowledge of that tire on the race track and used it to develop a consumer ultra-high performance tire that, like its racing counterpart, is engineered with a tread compound designed to deliver the maximum grip, speed and high-performance handling that sports car drivers want and need.
Additionally, race tires are engineered with heat resistant technology which is evident in the development of today’s street tires.
“When tires are changed during a pit stop in a race, the tires can reach a temperature as high as 200 degrees as a result of extreme racing conditions,” explains Dale Harrigle, chief engineer and manager of race tire development, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports. “The same heat-resistant technology is a key factor in the design of Bridgestone run-flat tires where heat is the ultimate enemy.”
So what does the future hold? According to Bridgestone tire engineers: another century of tire innovation.
The company is dedicated to remaining at the forefront of the tire and automotive industry, as evidenced by the more than 1 billion dollars it has spent on research and development across the last five years. Much of this research and development takes place at the company’s state-of-the-art Americas Technical Center (ATC) in Akron, Ohio, where race tire engineers work side-by-side with consumer and commercial tire engineers. Together they are developing a next-generation of tires engineered for the future of connected mobility.
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Bridgestone Americas.
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