Firestone has confirmed that it will pull out of the IZOD IndyCar Series at the end of the 2011 season. Firestone is also ending its title sponsorship and tire supply deal with Indy Lights.
Although the Japanese-owned manufacturer's exit had been in the cards for several months, and follows the departure of its Bridgestone brand from Formula 1 at the end of last season, efforts had continued to convince Firestone to stay on board for at least one more season as the series moved into its new rules package next year. But today Firestone and IndyCar announced that the series would require a new tire supplier for 2012.
"It's unfortunate to lose a great partner and ambassador for the sport like Firestone," said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. "We are actively engaged in discussions with other tire manufacturers on opportunities to get involved in our sport as we prepare to debut our new car in 2012.
"As the fastest, most versatile racing series in the world, IndyCar provides an ideal platform for companies looking to showcase both performance and brand on the track. In fact, Firestone credits its association with our sport in doubling the sales of its street tires in the U.S. during our first five years of partnership."
Al Speyer, head of Firestone's motorsport program, said the company would remain committed throughout the 2011 season.
"Even though we've announced our decision to retire from IndyCar competition, I want to assure our drivers, teams and fans that Firestone Racing is committed to maintaining the highest standards of performance and support through the 2011 season," he said. "We are also developing plans to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, and are looking forward to celebrating our winning partnership and honoring our decades-long relationship as part of this milestone."
Firestone returned to American open-wheel racing in 1995 after a 21-year absence, and soon overcame established tire brand Goodyear, which pulled out after 1999, leaving Firestone as the sole supplier to both Champ Car and IndyCar.