LE MANS, France — Goodyear plans to re-enter international sports-car racing later this year with its Goodyear brand, starting with the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), including the Le Mans 24-hour race, as a prelude to a broader program that could involve prototype and GT-style racing.
Goodyear — which last competed under the Goodyear brand in international endurance racing in the late 1990s — disclosed its plans this week just days ahead of the 2019 Le Mans 24-hour race, set to run June 15-16 on the fame LeSarthe circuit in west-central France.
The FIA World Endurance Championship features long-distance races on four continents with the Le Mans season finale, a race won 14 times by Goodyear-equipped cars.
Goodyear has competed in the WEC for the past eight seasons with its Dunlop brand. Teams using Dunlop race tires have won the WEC's LMP2 category at Le Mans eight straight years. Eight teams campaigning nine cars are competing at this year's race on Dunlop tires.
Goodyear did not say in its announcement whether the Dunlop-brand race program would continue in WEC.
Group Michelin has been the series' primary tire supplier since 2012 and recently agreed in 2017 to continue supplying race tires through at least the 2020-21 season.
Technically speaking, the WEC is an open competition series for tire makers, but Michelin has been the only one supplying the series' top Le Mans Prototype (LMP1) class for the past few years.
Sports-car racing provides a "strong platform" for demonstrating tire technologies on a wide range of different prototype and GT cars, Goodyear Motorsport Director Ben Crawley said.
"The nature of the races (varying from 4 hours to 24 hours) means tire choice and strategy are critical and it provides a motivating challenge for our technology team in our European innovation centers ahead of exploring other racing opportunities for the brand," Mr. Crawley said.
Goodyear has been developing a new range of tires for Le Mans prototypes for more than a year at its technical centers in Hanau, Germany, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg. The tire maker did not comment on its investment in this initiative.
Goodyear expects the new tire range to debut at the WEC race in Silverstone, England, the weekend of Aug. 31/Sept. 1, which is considered the start of the 2019/2020 WEC season. The company did not disclose how many or which teams it expects to have running on Goodyear tires.
"Motorsport continues to be one of the most popular global sports," Mr. Crawley said. "It is an ideal platform for us to engage with consumers around the heritage, passion, innovation and technology that make up Goodyear's story in racing."
"We will focus on sportscar racing at first, before applying learnings to other categories of racing, which could be within the endurance arena or in other racing series," he added.
The tires will be developed and manufactured alongside Goodyear's latest range of Eagle F1 SuperSport tires for performance and track-day cars.
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