APRIL 29, 1996
Bridgestone for F1 in 1997
ALTHOUGH Japanese tiremaker Bridgestone has announced that it is planning to enter Grand Prix racing in 1998, we believe that there is a plan for the company to start racing a year earlier than announced - in what appears to be an attempt to catch Goodyear and Michelin unprepared.
Bridgestone is believed to have signed a tire supply deal with Tom Walkinshaw's TWR F1 operation (formerly Arrows) which will see the Milton Keynes-based team becoming Bridgestone's contracted team. The deal is believed to include substantial finance in addition to the best tires. In order to enter F1 next year, however, the company must be prepared to supply 40% of the field. It is highly likely that the new Stewart and Dome teams will use Bridgestone next year and that there will be a couple of other middle-ranking teams recruited - although all these will have to pay for their tires.
In order to be ready for 1997 Bridgestone needs to be testing very soon, and we believe that Arrows is already building up a fifth chassis which will be sent to Japan within a matter of weeks, so that Bridgestone testing can begin with an up-to-date F1 car. It is likely that Arrows will use test driver Kelvin Burt to do most of the testing.
There was a quiet Bridgestone presence at last weekend's European GP at the Nurburgring with a camera-shy Bridgestone Motorsport boss Hiroshi Yasakawa hanging around at the Arrows motorhome.