Goodyear reconsidering F1?

THE Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company has announced that it is withdrawing from CART and IRL at the end of the year because it is impossible to justify the costs in the light of the poor viewing figures which have resulted from the split in American open-wheeler racing between CART and IRL.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify the significant capital and resources the company devotes to CART and IRL," said Goodyear's competition boss Stu Grant. "Our decision is based, in part, on open-wheel racing's present state of affairs in North America and the ongoing split between CART and IRL."

The company will concentrate its efforts in the successful NASCAR Winston Cup but Grant said that the company is not ruling out a possible return to Grand Prix racing. "We routinely revisit our 1998 decision to exit F1," Grant admitted.

We hear that Goodyear top management has been rather shocked by the effect that the F1 withdrawal has had on the company's profile in Europe, where Bridgestone surveys - and presumably similar Goodyear market research - have revealed a leap in the Bridgestone profile. It remains to be seen if sales will follow similar lines but the fear is that it could happen.

There has long been speculation that the company would return to Grand Prix racing as soon as it had completed its merger with Sumitomo Rubber Industries of Japan, which controls the Dunlop brand. The first signs of that arrangement are now being seen in motorcycle racing with the recent announcement that Goodyear will re-enter motorcycle racing, using Dunlop technicians and expertise. It is logical for Dunlop to go into F1, using Goodyear people and knowledge. Although a new F1 program would be expensive - particularly as it would probably mean that Michelin would also enter the sport, precipitating a major tire war - but it may be that Goodyear boss Sam Gibara will agree to such a move as a tire war means publicity and that means increased sales and an improved image for the company's products.

Gibara will also realize that without CART he is wasting a very valuable engineering resource in the form of the highly-trained Goodyear racing engineers who have been working in single-seater racing for the last 15 years.

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