That winged boot logo, on blue caps perched atop the heads of grinning racing drivers, at a thousand podium celebrations. Bulbous, fat slick tyres on outlandish 1970s Formula 1 cars. The airship – or blimp, depending on your side of the Atlantic.
What dyed-in-the-wool racing brand am I thinking of? It can only be Goodyear, American-as-apple-pie tyre (or should that be tire?) supplier to generations of our favourite racing cars. Then again, perhaps not if you happen to be under 25.
For British and European racers, Goodyear has been largely out of the game for the past two decades (drag racing and such excepted). Once synonymous with F1, the last of the company’s 368 grand prix wins – still a record – was Italy 1998, in its final season before a puzzling global withdrawal from competition.
Goodyear has remained a constant presence in Nascar but outside the US left the motorsport field to associates such as Dunlop. Now, finally, it’s back. “We’re going through a period of revitalisation for Goodyear in Europe and further afi eld,” says director of motorsport Ben Crawley.
“Racing is in Goodyear’s DNA. Normally, you have to work hard to prove credibility and authenticity, but it comes naturally with this brand. We’d be missing a trick not to have it back in the racing arena.”
Goodyear tyres have already returned to sports car racing, in the LMP2 class of the World Endurance Championship. In the UK, it will replace Dunlop as sole supplier to the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) for the next three years, and globally it will take over from Yokohama in the World Touring Car Cup. Why? As ever, to sell more product. Last year, Goodyear launched its new range of Eagle F1 Supersport ‘ultra-performance’ tyres for the road. Even in our fast-changing world, racing is still the most direct way to push the message.
For the BTCC, Crawley is open that it’s a case of continuing what has been started as Dunlop. “We spent years developing tyres for the BTCC,” he says. “It’s not right to disrupt that, so we’ll be using the technology and learnings we’ve had badged as Dunlop. But that will evolve, especially as we get into the hybrid era from 2022. Also, Kwik-Fit, the BTCC’s title sponsor, sells a lot more Goodyear tyres than Dunlops.”
So what about a return to F1 one day? “We’d never say never,” says Crawley. And the famous airships? “Watch this space.” Time, then, to dust off the old Goodyear caps – at least for those of us old enough to remember.