Hankook is poised to take over from long-term partner Bridgestone as official supplier of tyres to, and title sponsor of, the All-Japan F3 Championship.
The Korean tyre manufacturer will back the series for the next two years after reaching a six-figure agreement with organisers that will also see all competitors running on Hankook rubber until the end of 2010 at least. Prior to the new agreement, which was confirmed at the Tokyo Auto Salon this week, Bridgestone had supplied tyres for the championship for two uninterrupted decades.
Seoul-based Hankook Tire is the seventh largest tyre company in the world, and has been making gradual inroads into motorsport, initially through low-level national series rather than something as big as the All-Japan F3 Championship, which is the only series in Asia able to award an FIA F1 superlicence to its champion. Involvement as supplier to the German and Italian F3 series will provide useful data for its latest venture, as will deals with a handful of teams in the American Le Mans Series, which accompanied the brand's bigger presence in rallying on both a national and international level.
“We will showcase new products whose superb quality has been verified through prominent competitions and performance tests," managing director Kim Se-heon said in the build-up to the signing ceremony at the Auto Salon, "Our selection as official sponsor of Japan F3 will enable our intent to promote Hankook Tire's outstanding technology to industry experts as well as general consumers.”
The partnership will kick off at the opening round of 2009, on 4-5 April, at Fuji.