IRL: Indy 500: Firestone Pole Day preview

New Firestone tires meeting the challenge of Indianapolis INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 9, 2003) - Part of the allure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the challenge it presents a component supplier to constantly deliver the best product possible.

New Firestone tires meeting the challenge of Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 9, 2003) - Part of the allure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the challenge it presents a component supplier to constantly deliver the best product possible. That even goes for an Indy institution like Firestone, which serves as exclusive tire supplier to the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series.

By equipping all entries in the 87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, Firestone is assured its 54th race champion when the checkered flag waves May 25. Despite the security of knowing they cannot lose, Firestone engineers toiled long and hard in the 12 months since last year's Indy 500 to deliver an even better race tire than in 2002. By all appearances, they have succeeded. The all-new Firestone Firehawks for Indy in 2003 have received universally positive reviews by the teams that have tested and practiced on them in the weeks leading to qualifications that begin tomorrow.

"Even with all its tradition, Indianapolis is always a place of change," said Al Speyer Executive Director at Firestone Racing. "Last year, that change took shape when the track surface was ground a few short weeks before the month of May. The altered surface created more wear on the race tires than anticipated, and left us no time to make a specification change.

"While the Firehawks performed admirably under those conditions," Speyer continued, "our race tire development group was determined to return this year with a tire that would meet all the demands of this great speedway. The months and miles of pre-Indy testing have paid off because many fast drivers are very pleased with the Firehawks for 2003."

The completely new tires were produced at Firestone's Technical Center in Akron, Ohio. They were designed to improve on the Firestone hallmarks of incredibly long wear and consistency throughout the full run, and look to have accomplished both. A perfect example occurred in practice Thursday afternoon, when two-time defending race champion Helio Castroneves clocked a speed of 231.585 mph on tires with more than 30 laps on them. That's one of the best laps of the month on tires basically at the end of a full fuel run.

"Certainly, Firestone did a great job coming with a different compound and construction," Castroneves said. "The tire is really able to hold up a little bit more. I've been able to do pretty good runs, consistent with more laps than it used to, but especially more laps than last year."

Gil de Ferran, Castroneves' Marlboro Team Penske teammate, seconded the thought and added that the improved tires provide other benefits.

"Helio really hit the nail on the head there when he mentioned the tires," de Ferran said. "Really, Firestone came with a very good tire this year, much more durable than last year, and that really has allowed us to work more on the car, do more methodical work on setting the car. Like Helio, I've been very happy, been doing very fast times with 30-lap tires. When we go out with new rubber, we've been able to maintain great consistency."

The better tire compound and construction is one ingredient to the overall improved performance. The track surface itself has weathered in a year, and the new IndyCar chassis/engine specifications have contributed. It has anticipation peaking on the eve of pole day.

"Everything is certainly pointing toward a thrilling run for the pole this weekend," said Speyer. "The good thing in the drivers' minds is they know that, besides staying with them for an entire stint, they can count on their Firestone tires to deliver during those four critical qualifying laps when every ounce of speed is squeezed out of the racecars. These new Firehawks have shown they can run fast, run long and run hard."

It's not surprising, considering the unparalleled history Firestone has enjoyed here, winning more Indianapolis 500s than all other tire manufacturers combined. Firestone also will serve as exclusive supplier this month when the Infiniti Pro Series makes its IMS debut. It marks the first support race conducted at IMS during May in the Speedway's 93-year history.

"May is always a very exciting time for us at Firestone because of the anticipation and surprises that Indianapolis generates," Speyer said. "The Pro Series debut at IMS just adds to the luster and electricity that is Indy. It began in 1911 when Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 on Firestone tires and continues today. We take extreme pride in knowing every competitor who gets on the track this month will ride around this legendary facility on Firestone Firehawks."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran
Teams Team Penske