Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bridgestone to Cease Tyre Supply to the FIA Formula One World Championship

The journey of Bridgestone’s Potenza F1 tyresThe journey of Bridgestone’s Potenza Formula One tyres from the motorsport tyre production facility in Japan to the race circuits visited on the F1 calendar is one which takes the tyres all around the world. Over the course of the 2009 season around 40,000 tyres will be used for the 17 races and pre and post season tests. “Bridgestone’s Formula One tyres are all produced at our Technical Centre in Kodaira City, Tokyo,” explains Hirohide Hamashima, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development. “They are produced to very exacting requirements and we have very strict quality control mechanisms in place to ensure that all of the tyres are of a suitable standard for the high performance requirements of Formula One.” Once the tyres have been produced they are distributed to the race destinations. The race location determines the means of distribution. “There are two main methods for getting the tyres to the races,” explains Peter Grzelinski, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Logistics Manager. “For the European races, the tyres are transported by sea or, if necessary, by air to Bridgestone’s base in Langley, near Heathrow airport, and then they are taken to the races by truck.” Bridgestone’s UK motorsport centre is christened MSUK – Motor Sport UK – and it is a home for Bridgestone Motorsport’s Formula One and GP2 Series technicians and engineers as well as housing PR, promotions, logistical and support staff. In its distribution role it can house over 30,000 tyres at any one time as well as Bridgestone’s fleet of 32-tonne tyre transporter trucks. “We take at least six trucks full of tyres to every Grand Prix in Europe,” explains Grzelinski. “Our shortest journey was to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, just 70km away, whilst our longest journey was 3700km away for the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul.” It’s not only the tyres, as tyre fitting, inflating and balancing equipment is also taken by truck to the races. “As well as the tyres and tyre fitting equipment we also have a hospitality unit, an engineering base and a support truck, not to mention GP2 Series tyres and equipment,” says Grzelinski. Now the Italian Grand Prix has taken place, there are no more races in Europe, so a different means of distribution is employed. “For the races outside of Europe the tyres are shipped direct to the destinations from Japan,” explains Grzelinski. “The shipping containers are delivered to the circuits so that the tyres are ready for us when we arrive.” It’s not just the tyres themselves which have to arrive at the track, it’s the fitting and balancing equipment too. “We actually have several sets of fitting, inflation and balancing equipment which are shipped to the different events,” says Grzelinski. “This means, for instance, that one set might be used in Malaysia at the beginning of the season, and then in Singapore later in the year. This is far more cost effective than flying one set of equipment between races.” Bridgestone can have as much as 12 tonnes of freight delivered to a non-European race and around 40 personnel, split between technicians, engineers, managers and PR staff will attend. When at the track Bridgestone’s tyre technicians fit the tyres to the wheel rims which are supplied by the teams. Who gets which particular tyre is determined by the FIA. “Each tyre has its own unique barcode and through these barcodes the FIA allocates who gets which tyre,” explains Grzelinski. “The barcodes also allow us to track the tyres at any time through their distribution and also allow the FIA to check that the correct amount of tyres are allocated and returned to us according to the regulations.” Throughout the fitting and allocation process the tyres are constantly monitored. “We have many processes and visual checks to ensure that our tyres reach the teams in the best conditions, ready to enable exciting racing on track.”