Goodyear is planning to be in sports car racing “for the long term” following its commitment to provide tires in the FIA World Endurance Championship next season.
The U.S. company’s motorsport director Ben Crawley told Sportscar365 that expansion beyond its initial LMP2 commitment is planned, while he also described the upcoming hypercar regulations as “very much of interest”.
Goodyear announced its return to top-level sports car racing after a 13-year hiatus last month and is currently preparing for its first WEC race at Silverstone in September.
Its full supply range next season is not yet known, with High Class Racing currently shown as the only Goodyear team on the entry list for the pre-season Prologue test.
This came out after the provisional full-season entry list, which had the two Jota-run Oreca 07 Gibsons from Jota Sport and Jackie Chan DC Racing named as Goodyear entrants, but their tires are no longer specified.
Crawley explained that Goodyear, which is the parent company of former WEC supplier Dunlop, wants to increase its presence within the championship in the next few years.
This naturally includes the hypercar regulations, which will replace LMP1 starting in 2020-21, and will carry a single tire supplier as per the technical rulebook published last year.
“Within WEC, we don’t just want to stay in LMP2,” said Crawley. “Part of having a stronger, broader presence for Goodyear and activating it more, is obviously the new hypercar category, which is of interest.
“We’ll be actively discussing and evaluating that, and also the GTE categories. We absolutely want to expand the presence within WEC.
“Overall, we see this as one pillar of how we bring Goodyear back into racing, for the long term.
“Aside from activating Goodyear in motorsport, one of the other key drivers is creating strong links with OEMs that we can then leverage from a wider business point of view.
“If the confirmed and rumored OEMs come to fruition within the category, then it will very much be of interest in terms of providing that platform.”
Goodyear’s European vice president Mike Rytokoski added that the company is aiming to increase its off-track brand activation surrounding the WEC program.
He explained that Goodyear’s global marketability has made it a more viable brand to present on the global stage, compared to Dunlop.
“We’re looking to revitalize the brand in Europe, as well as our flagship brand globally, so it was a logical decision for us to bring Goodyear back to motorsports and more,” Rytokoski told Sportscar365.
“One of the other reasons why we like the idea of bringing the Goodyear brand back instead of Dunlop is that we don’t hold Dunlop in every single country of the world.
“In the WEC, there are a couple of races in Asia where we don’t actually have the rights for the Dunlop brand.
“Now that we have Goodyear in WEC, it gives us a lot more [freedom] to do more marketing activities and activation, and we are working on those plans as we go forward.”
Goodyear’s arrival in the WEC coincides with the launch of the new ultra-high-performance Eagle F1 SuperSport road tire that borrows technology from the race tire development process.
The WEC tires are being developed at Goodyear’s manufacturing plants in Germany and Luxembourg.
“Our innovation centers that we have in Europe are all part of one research and development group, so there are continuously shared learnings,” said Crawley.
“Also, where the race tires are going to be manufactured is where we manufacturer some of our ultra-high-performance road tires. Everything from the design and development to final design and production, are very closely aligned synergies.
“We’re very confident that we can develop race-winning tires and the teams that we’ll be working with at the start will be very competitive.
“The focus of competition in WEC is trying to get outright performance, in terms of delivering for professional drivers continually better tires that go faster, and also making sure that we can suit some of the silver drivers that need a bit more feel and driveability.
“It’s a balancing act, always. But the absolute focus is that cars on Goodyear tires will be winning from race one.”
Dunlop will continue to supply tires to teams in the ELMS this year, but no decision has been made on whether Goodyear will assimilate the brand’s activities in 2020.
“It’s too early to say whether cars will be racing on Dunlop at Le Mans in 2020 because, clearly, other series feed into part of the ultimate grid spaces,” said Crawley.
“We’ll make decisions on those other series as and when the timings are right to do that.”
Crawley added that Goodyear is aiming to have its tires winning in the WEC “from race one.”