By: Tanner Watkins
September 20, 2019 | 1:00 PM
When a racing discipline has been absent from one track’s history for 15 years, naturally there will be some things to iron out before on-track activity commences. The same could be said for the NTT IndyCar Series’ official return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend.
Among inspections to runoff areas, pit lane and garage facilities, timing lines and more, a key point of the competition comes in developing a tire that will generate compelling and fair on-track action. This is where Firestone’s incredibly-talented set of engineers come in to play.
American open-wheel racing last paced the historic California circuit in 2004 with the Champ Car World Series, and a lot has changed in that timespan.
While IndyCar arranged for a test in February to learn more about today’s track surface at Laguna Seca, the crew at Firestone has put in a lot of work between then and now to bring what they think will be the best possible product for this weekend.
“The Firestone Race Tire Engineering team always enjoys the challenge of developing race tires for a new track,” said Cara Adams, the Chief Engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.
“We collected important data for WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca at the February test, but we’ve also been looking at tire performance from similar tracks over the past 15 years to study how our tires and the track may have changed since the last time we raced there.
“Through track surface analysis we determined the surfaces at Laguna Seca are within range of the standard road courses in our series, but we also saw it has very unique differences with clay filling from water runoff and dust coverage from the wind – each of which can change grip levels significantly.
“After reviewing all the data, the team selected tires similar to what we ran at Portland this year – but with increased durability to withstand Laguna Seca’s changing surfaces.”
Indeed, both the alternate and primary tires that will be used this weekend will feature characteristics of Portland’s 2019 compound that was used just a few weeks ago in Oregon. More specifically, the construction of the tire will be exactly the same as Portland’s set, while the compound will be composed of a similar blend used at PIR with more durability worked in.
This weekend, teams have been allotted 11 total primary sets: seven for the race weekend, and four for the Thursday test sessions. Four sets of alternate tires have been designated for the teams, and as always, teams with rookie drivers get an extra set.
For the three days at Laguna Seca, Firestone will supply more than 2,300 race tires for on-track activity, and throughout the 2019 season we have seen Firestone report that nearly 180,000 on-track miles have been logged by their tires. Furthermore, here are some other interesting stats from Firestone’s 20th year as the Official Tire of IndyCar:
- 60+: The approximate number of race tire specifications that Firestone Racing has developed for use during the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, including the tires that will be used at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
- 70: Number of times Firestone tires have carried the winner to Victory Circle at the Indy 500; at this year’s 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 marked Firestone’s its 70th win – more than twice as many as all other tire manufacturers combined.
- 119: Number of years that Firestone tires have delivered time-tested, dependable performance; the brand’s roots in the U.S. date to the brand’s founding in 1900, and Firestone maintains a strong footprint in each market that the NTT IndyCar Series visits.
- 272 million: Approximate number of tire rotations of Firestone Firehawk race tires during the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season – including open tests and races – enough to travel the California coastline 214 times.
Thank you to Chris Bartels of UEG for those stats, and thank you to Firestone for another incredible season supplying tires to IndyCar race teams. There are very few, if any, reported issues with Firestone tires during an IndyCar season, and that speaks to the quality of the product that Cara Adams and her staff put on the track.
We recognize your hard work, and thank you for all that you do! Onto 2020 and beyond.
Header image by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR.