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Firestone reverses decision to quit series

11 March 2011

Just a week after Firestone and IndyCar announced the tyre manufacturer's departure from the series at the end of 2011, it was confirmed that a deal had been reached after all to keep Bridgestone's American subsidiary in the competition for two more years.

“We are pleased that we were able to reach this agreement with IndyCar,”" said Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer. ""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."

It had been reported during the week that the various teams competing in IndyCar had been lobbying hard to keep Firestone in the series, at least through 2012 when all the new rules are introduced, so that there was one 'reliable constant' through all the change.

"We all want to keep running with Firestone," Conquest boss Eric Bachelart had told speed.com. "We know those people; we trust their product and we have to save the deal. [Firestone is] the best partner ever and we can't afford to lose them so we're hoping they'll review their decision."

"The team owners are collectively very relieved that Firestone had an open mind and that they were able to reach this agreement with IndyCar," agreed Dennis Reinbold, co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. "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.”

“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,” IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, explaining the turnabout. “This is one of those decisions that it is imperative that you have the team owners 100 percent behind you. Early this week we called a meeting to walk the team owners through the process and hear their input," he said, which seems to have given IndyCar the go-ahead to keep Firestone in the series by any means necessary.

“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."

Speyer recalled the victory of a Firestone-shod car at the very first Indy 500 when noting that "As we prepare to celebrate our involvement in the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, we are also focused on the future and the great opportunities that lie ahead.

"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.”

Those options evidently do not include the Indy Lights junior development series, which is not covered by this new deal and which will therefore still need to find both a new tyre supplier for 2012 and a new title sponsor as well.

The decision will however give some security to the 70 employees of the Akron, Ohio-based tyre manufacturer whose roles are directly related to the company's involvement in North American motorsport competition.


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