Is Goodyear Done?
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Everyone has always assumed that the competition between Goodyear
Tire & Rubber Company and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is an
even battle that might swing one way or the other but would never
yield a clear winner. Maybe we were wrong. It looks to me like
Firestone has won.
Gil De Ferran, the only Goodyear driver in a competitive car,
was in the hunt at Long Beach but only just. He qualified seventh
and finished sixth. But how can Goodyear develop tires with one
The difference between the two tires seems to boil down to this:
Goodyear tires have more grip the first few laps and then performance
deteriorates. The tires loose a few tenths of a second after
one to three laps and then a half second more at 10 to 20 laps.
What's worse is the balance can change also, but the team has
some control of this with their setup.
The Firestone tires are initially slower than the Goodyears by
a tenth of a second or two, but they do not "go off"
as badly. You hear drivers/engineers say, "They're more
consistent." If the grip doesn't deteriorate the balance
can't change much either.
Off the record people from both companies say, "It's always
been that way. Goodyears are grippier but go off. Firestones
are more consistent." It seems neither company knows exactly
They can steal each other's tires and dissect them, so why doesn't
Goodyear just make a tire the same as a Firestone? [Added 5/3/99:
The Firestone guys told me at Nazareth that they have a policy
of never looking at Goodyear tires.] It's not that simple. A
chemical analysis of a rubber compound will tell you what's there
and how much but cannot reveal the temperature, pressure, processing
history the material experienced during manufacturing. Goodyear
would certainly fix the problem if they knew how.
Added 11/7/99: The sentence in bold type above
is the key. Somehow Firestone is able to make a tire with more
grip and the tensile strength to transmit the higher forces that
result. Their tires retain that grip even after 50 to 70 laps.
Good year tires kept getting softer but the rubber would shear
off and roll up into gooey gobs that littered the track and degraded
traction off the racing line. After a couple of laps the tires
"go off" a half second and continue todeteriorate until
they are seconds a lap slower. The Goodyear NASCAR tires continue
to behave like this.
At Long Beach a Firestone guy told me it's been their policy
for years to avoid even touching a Goodyear tire.
During Long Beach week I heard huge amounts of Goodyear radio
promotions for the NASCAR event at Fontana the following week
but nothing on the CART race. Goodyear used to buy advertising
during CART TV programs, but not anymore. Goodyear simply can't
justify spending millions on development while losing.
I think Goodyear management decided to cut back on racing several
years ago. Leo Mehl, now Executive Director of the Indy Racing
League, got tired of fighting for enough budget and quit his
job as Worldwide Director of Racing for Goodyear. They get great
PR for their involvement in NASCAR racing and they will stay
in the IRL as long as they win some races. Scott Goodyear won
on Goodyear tires recently at the IRL event at Phoenix. Money
not spent on racing goes right to the bottom line and becomes
profit as long as sales don't suffer.
They were getting beat badly in Formula 1 and were making no
headway so they quit. I think the same thing will happen in CART
Too bad, the competition added a lot of flavor to the race weekends.
The teams won't mind, though. They will have an easier job dialing
in the cars if they see fewer changes in the tires. Firestone
will bring more conservative tires to races ending problems they've
had that led to failures like the one that caused Greg Moore
to spin late in the Motegi race.