CART and the Bridgestone/Firestone corporation have formally announced that the Bridgestone Potenza racing radial will be the mandatory tyre on all FedEx Championship Series cars next season.

The Bridgestone brands had made its name as a successful tyre in Formula One competition and will be joining the CART series for the first time next season. While Bridgestone rubber has been competing on racetracks around the world since 1963, the brand has had limited exposure to racing fans in the US, and marketing chiefs see this as an ideal time to increase that.

"We are very pleased to have the Bridgestone tyre brand joining CART and the FedEx Championship Series," said Rich Henley, CART's senior vice-president of marketing, "Bridgestone reaches an audience very similar to the CART fan, and has a following among enthusiasts and fans alike around the world. We believe Bridgestone, and its advanced technology, is a very good fit for
CART and Bridgestone/Firestone."

Until now, following the withdrawal of American brand Goodyear some three seasons ago, Bridgestone's sister brand Firestone has been the tyre of choice in CART circles.

"We're very excited about featuring the Bridgestone brand in a major open-wheel racing series that has its roots in the US," said Shu Ishibashi, the president of the Bridgestone/Firestone US consumer tyre group, "From 1998 through 2001, the Formula One world drivers' championship has gone to Bridgestone-equipped drivers, providing excellent exposure for the brand in European markets and other countries.

"Since CART has evolved into an international programme, and the Bridgestone brand is involved with international racing, we believe CART and Bridgestone make a perfect match. We're confident that using Bridgestone tyres in this demanding series in 2002 will reinforce the brand and complement Bridgestone's exposure in F1."

CART CEO and president Joe Heitzler said his organisation supports Bridgestone/Firestone's decision to begin using Bridgestone tyres in the series' competitions.

"We've been very pleased with the performance of Firestone in CART," Heitzler said, "In event after event, the tyres have been amazingly consistent and safe, contributing much to the quality of our racing.

"When Bridgestone/Firestone informed us that they wanted to use Bridgestone tyres in future CART events, complementing the use of Bridgestone Potenzas in Formula One, we recognised that as an astute marketing decision and an effective strategy for the Bridgestone brand. The CART organisation is proud to be affiliated with Bridgestone/Firestone, because we know its people are dedicated to giving us great tires for every competition."

The Bridgestone Potenza racing radials for CART will be produced primarily at the Bridgestone/Firestone technical centre in Akron, Ohio, although some will be manufactured at the Bridgestone Technical Centre in Japan, and imported into the United States by Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.

"CART is unique in that it races on oval tracks in dry conditions and on road and street courses when it's raining or dry," Ishibashi said, "but we're sure that the Potenza racing tyres will be up to the challenge, and that CART will provide a great showplace to reinforce our message about Bridgestone's advanced technology to vehicle manufacturers, independent tyre dealers, our own retail stores and, ultimately, consumers.

"To support this exposure on track, we're planning a complete marketing program that includes advertising and drive and learn events using CART drivers."

Bridgestone-equipped drivers have appeared in - and won - many events and competitions around the world, including the last four Formula One championships. In addition to competing in CART and Formula One in 2002, the Bridgestone brand can also be seen in MotoGP 500cc class and the American Motorcycle Association's 125cc motocross and supercross series, saloon racing in Europe, Asia and Australia, and kart racing in numerous regional, national and international series.

"Our motorsports programs feature different brands, but our commitment to providing superior racing tyres and professional technical support to every team we work with remains constant," said Bridgestone/Firestone motorsports director Al Speyer, "We're excited about a new era in CART history, a time when Bridgestone-equipped drivers will compete on road, street, oval and
superspeedway courses around the world. We are confident the Bridgestone Potenza racing radials will provide these demanding drivers with the consistency, durability and reliability needed to race in so many different competitions."

The announcement comes at a time when Bridgestone's superiority in Formula One is being challenged by the return of Michelin, which won four races with the Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Montoya in 2001. With McLaren having recently announced its switch to the French manufacturer for 2002, Bridgestone is left with just champions Ferrari among the list of grand prix winners from recent years.

Unlike their F1 cousins, however, the CART teams will run on full slick tyres in dry conditions.

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