IRL: Firestone begins 2003 Indy 500 tests

Firestone Racing begins work on tires for 2003 Indy 500. NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 31, 2002) - After logging 54,522.5 trouble-free miles in practice, qualifying and racing during this year's Indianapolis 500, Firestone engineers wasted no time in...

Firestone Racing begins work on tires for 2003 Indy 500.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 31, 2002) - After logging 54,522.5 trouble-free miles in practice, qualifying and racing during this year's Indianapolis 500, Firestone engineers wasted no time in their efforts to prepare tires for the 2003 version of the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing." The Firestone race tire development team was back at the world-famous racetrack Wednesday and Thursday, experimenting with compounds and constructions for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500, now just 359 days away.

"We are extremely proud of the performance of the Firestone Firehawks in this year's Indianapolis 500, but there's no time to rest on our laurels," said Firestone Racing Executive Director Al Speyer. "The tires used in this year's event contributed to record race speeds, providing incredible durability and consistency from the May 5 opening day session right through the May 26 race. When we accepted the role of exclusive tire supplier for the Indy Racing League last fall, we pledged to continue our tire development efforts, giving IRL teams and drivers superior tires every year. Our testing work at Indianapolis, just three days after this year's race, is evidence of our commitment to that pledge."

Leading up to this year's Indianapolis 500 race, there was considerable speculation about tire wear after an effort to smooth the 2.5-mile track created some abrasive spots on the track. Firestone engineers worked closely with all teams throughout the month on tire management, offering advice and technical assistance on car setups. After the first round of pit stops during the race, it was obvious the working relationships with teams paid dividends, with tires wearing well within satisfactory levels for the demanding competition. By race end, many teams were going beyond the limits of expectations, with winner Helio Castroneves logging 105 miles on a set of Firehawks that had been designed to handle 75 miles at Indy.

Castroneves was one of 15 drivers who ran more than 60 race laps in excess of 220 miles per hour. All told, there were 1,612 race laps above the 220-mph mark, with Tomas Scheckter accumulating more than any other driver - 97 trips around the oval in excess of 220 mph. The Red Bull Cheever Racing rookie driver led all drivers in fastest race laps, scoring four runs around the track at 226-plus mph. His team owner, Eddie Cheever Jr., gave the Firehawks high marks for enduring a grueling race while providing consistent performance.

"We didn't have a set all month that we weren't pleased with," Cheever said. "The track was tough, but the Firestone engineers did a superb job in giving us the tires we needed. To run at the speeds we ran - without any problems - is a testament to the strength of Firestone."

To ensure those types of compliments keep coming, the Firestone engineers this week experimented with different compounds and constructions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Pennzoil Panther Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr. and Kelley Racing driver Scott Sharp logged 940 miles on Firestone Firehawk test tires.

"The test went very well, and our engineers were able to gather a wealth of data," Speyer said. "Sam and Scott, along with their respective teams, were also able to provide invaluable feedback about the differences among compounds and constructions being evaluated. We will immediately start to work analyzing the information, then begin the work of refining and tuning until we're satisfied we have the right tire for next year's Indianapolis 500. It's a laborious process, but the reward is great racing action at another Indy 500."

The Firestone brand took its first Indianapolis 500 win during the inaugural event in 1911, and has now collected a total of 53 victories at the speedway - a record of wins greater than those accumulated by all other tire companies competing at Indianapolis combined. With this Indianapolis 500 now in the record books, the Firestone Racing program has now competed in 61 Indy Racing League events - the only tire company to be in every IRL race since the first competition in 1996.

Firestone tires for street and highway use are sold at more than 12,000 outlets, including company-owned Firestone Tire and Service Centers, independent dealers, mass merchandisers and warehouse clubs. In addition to service on passenger vehicles and light trucks, Firestone tires are found in many commercial applications, including truck and bus, off-the-road, agricultural and other business sectors.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Scott Sharp , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing