No matter how Goodyear plays it, its decision to pull out of Formula One racing is an embarrassment to the company. Is there any sense to the decision by the tire supplier that bills itself as ``No. 1 in racing'' to withdraw from Formula One? Sure.
Goodyear complains that Formula One rule changes installed by the racing sanctioning body, Federation Internationale de 'Automobile, will escalate the cost of supplying tires for the circuit when the rules go into effect in 1998. The changing tread patterns prescribed by the organization are aimed at reducing cornering speeds and lengthening braking distances.
The company just doesn't see enough return on this investment.
And even without Formula One, Goodyear remains the most-used tire in other racing venues, supplying tires for a wide range of races—Indy cars, stock, sprint and sports cars, dirt, trucks and drag racing and off-road contests.
Racing primarily is a marketing tool, however. And the company just lost bragging rights for a high-profile activity to one of its arch rivals, Bridgestone Corp.
Goodyear executives in Akron can hear the chortling coming from Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s Nashville headquarters.
``We are not really surprised to hear this news from Goodyear. Firestone has soundly beaten them in Indy car racing and their withdrawal from Formula One removes the risk of Bridgestone also beating them in that category of racing...'' said Trevor Hoskins, Bridgestone/Firestone's spokesman (and a former Goodyear public relations official).
And from Al Speyer, Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports director: ``...we take this announcement as a great compliment to the tremendous success we have had in Indy car racing.''
Goodyear enjoyed having much of the racing scene to its own in the past. Like other companies that supply tires to race teams, the tire maker reaps all the publicity it can from each and every success on the track.
The simple fact is racing wins translate into consumer sales, which means a racing failure, even one that is only a perception (Formula One cars fitted with Goodyear Eagles did win all 17 races in which they competed in 1997), can result in negative publicity.
In a business in which boasting is a virtue, Goodyear today is dining on crow.