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Goodyear to quit F1!

GOODYEAR shocked the F1 world last week with the announcement that it is to withdraw from Grand Prix racing at the end of 1998. The Akron, Ohio company blamed rising costs and new regulations. "We saw our participation in Formula 1 racing as an investment in research and development to provide Goodyear customers with high-tech products," said Bill Sharp, President of Goodyear's global support operations. "The rule change imposed by the Formula 1 governing body, to tires with grooved treads, sets a direction in our development program of complying with costly new specifications rather than with Goodyear's objective to advance technology to a higher level of performance."

This argument does not, of course, make any sense to the man on the street as the development of slick racing tires is likely to bring much less benefit than research into advanced grooved tires. It is further undermined by the fact that the company has already had to invest in new machinery to make the 1998 tires.

"We have had a long and rewarding relationship with the highest caliber teams in F1," Sharp said, "and it is our intention to ensure that a Goodyear-equipped team wins the championship in 1998 through an aggressive development program."

The reality of the situation is that Goodyear knows that at the end of the 1998 season it will be in an auction with Bridgestone, and probably Michelin, to sign up the top F1 teams. This is likely to need a much bigger financial investment than is currently the case and Goodyear bosses in Akron seem to have concluded that it is not worth spending the money when the company already has a strong sporting image.

The finance saved in F1 could be used to continue Goodyear's policy of buying up small regional tire companies around the world to gain market share, rather than trying to win over the general public with racing success.

The policy will also avoid the possibility that Goodyear would be defeated by one of its rivals - which would be embarrassing after so many years of success.

Goodyear has been involved in F1 virtually non-stop since 1965 and has collected no fewer than 361 Grand Prix victories. In December 1980 the company announced it was pulling out because of the political battles between the governing body FISA and the team organization FOCA. The company returned in June 1981. Between 1992-1996 the company enjoyed a monopoly of tire supply in F1 but Bridgestone entered F1 this year, supplying Arrows, Prost, Minardi and Stewart.

The announcement means that Williams, Ferrari, McLaren, Benetton, Jordan, Sauber and Tyrrell will all be free to use Bridgestones in 1999 although both Michelin and Pirelli have been looking closely at F1.

Goodyear plans to remain active in other motorsport activity around the world.

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