We gained additional insights recently on the use of a spec tire in a racing series when we visited with Jim Scarborough, customer development manager for The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, and Gustavo Menezes, who will be competing in the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear again in 2012.
The occasion was a small gathering of journalists for lunch at the Goodyear North American Airship Operations in Gardena, California. If you’ve ever been driving south of Los Angeles on the 405 freeway right around where it intersects with the 110 freeway, and glimpsed the Goodyear blimp tethered to a mast, that’s where we met. It was the idea of Dean Case, communications officers for MAZDASPEED Motorsports. A one-hour ride in the blimp was also on the schedule, but Santa Ana wind conditions prevented the trip.
In addition to providing a measure of affordability to racers, there is an immense pressure on the tire manufacturer to supply a tire that is reliable in performance. If there are wide variations the performance of individual tires, then it can destroy the concept of a level playing field.
“It’s very important to have them really consistent,” said Menezes.
In turn, the spec tire can expand the importance of tire management for the driver.
As Menezes said, regarding his first season in Star Mazda in 2011, “I finally learned how to manage the Goodyear tires the whole race.” Menezes will be driving for Team Pelfrey in 2012, a team that scored four wins and captured 13 podium finishes en route to the team title in its first season of Star Mazda Championship action. “I learned a lot. At the beginning of the year, I’d drive through the tires in 15 minutes.”
Scarborough said Goodyear looks upon its racing activities as “ a proving ground.” He said, “The engineers are on the ground, collecting data.” And racing is a key part of Goodyear’s marketing strategy.
Keep an eye on the 17-year-old Menezes. He’s raced karts and formula cars in Europe, because he wanted to experience the “steep learning curve” that would provide. He was happy to report that in the 2009 racing season, after struggling for two years, “We were really solid.”
Make no mistake about his plans for the Star Mazda series in 2012. “I’m going all out for the win.” The Star Mazda Championship series is part of the Road To Indy.
We asked Menezes where an up-and-coming young driver goes today to keep up with the latest news in his racing world, and he mentioned www.eformulacarnews.com and www.junioropenwheeltalent.com, as well as Racer magazine.