Mat Coch writes:
Kumho Tyres has given further confirmation of its long term aspiration to create a tyre for the pinnacle of motor sport, after completing a full-scale three-day test of its prototype F1 spec tyres at the Catalunya circuit near Barcelona.
The Kumho tests were carried out using an Auto GP car with a range of drivers including former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan, Auto GP frontrunner Kevin Giovesi and Sung Hak Moon, the first Korean to drive in Formula 2 and who is considered Korea's fastest racer and best hope of making it to F1.
The tests were part of an ongoing research and development program for Kumho which started with the production of its first F1 spec tyre in 2007.
Kumho says the latest test brings it closer to the world's premier motor racing championship and puts it in a strong position to be able to supply the premier category if the opportunity arises in the near future.
According to Bong Young Son, Kumho's director of research and development, the company believes that its technology has reached a level that will enable it to compete with the leading global tyre brands in the F1 tyre market.
"Kumho is the Korean tyre company that is the closest to F1 in in terms of technology and capabilities, and this program is part of our mission to constantly test our products on real cars and constantly strive to improve our products to help us achieve our long held goal of supplying the F1 industry," said Bong Young Son.
Kumho is one of only five tyre makers in the world today that possesses the advanced technology to manufacture F1 tyres at the ultimate level of technology.
Kumho first stated an interest in F1 as long ago as 2004 and has been seen as a potential replacement for tyre suppliers in the category ever since.
According to Kumho Tyre Australia national marketing and training manager, David Basha, Formula One has been a long-term goal for Kumho.
"Every prestige car manufacturer and supplier wants to be involved in Formula One and Kumho has been working towards it through our involvement in motorsport since the 1990s," said Basha.
Kumho is no stranger to junior open wheel formula, having been sole supplier to the F3 European series in the past and sees motorsport at all levels as a means of both developing its product and enhancing its image.
"We are a relative newcomer, with the shortest history among any of the top ten global tyre makers and we need to compete in the global market with our technical power," said Kumho global CEO Jong-Ho Kim.
"Motor sport is the area where we can showcase our capabilities and this test demonstrates we are now ready for the challenge of F1 and we will wait for an opportunity to enter the F1 market," he added.
The car used for the Catalunya tests is from the Auto GP category, which uses a 615kg open wheeled car powered by a 3.4litre V8 with more than 550 horsepower.
The circuit is a prime track for tyre testing because of the strain it subjects tyres to with its range of high and medium speed corners, long straights and high ambient temperatures.
Kumho is currently the sole supplier to Auto GP, French Formula Four, as well as the Australian and European Masters Formula Three Championships.
The company also has strong involvement with numerous sedan racing categories such as Germany's VLN Endurance series and Australia's V8 Touring Car and rally championships including the Australian Rally Championship.
Since its inception in 1960, Kumho Tyres has been a model of steady growth amid dramatic changes of business landscape. Driven by innovation in management and technical development Kumho has become one of the top ten tyre companies in the world. It has succeeded in the development of superior tyres for all vehicles including high performance passenger cars, sports utility and 4X4, as well as trucks, buses, mining and even aircraft.
Kumho produces more than 68 million tyres annually with a massive research and development program which comprises more than 600 research personnel and 300 testing machines at proving grounds in South Korea, China, Europe and North America. Kumho leads the world with the latest in tyre technology, safety and performance.
In Australia Kumho markets an extensive range of tyres for cars, 4WDs, light commercials, trucks and buses with a network centred around five state locations with the ability to distribute tyres to retailers across all areas of Australia.