Kumho has won the contract to be the sole supplier of tyres to the international Auto GP series for 550bhp single-seat racing cars. The appointment comes at an interesting time as, new for this season, all Auto GP teams will be required to use two specifications of tyre per weekend; as occurs in F1.
Auto GP is already one of the premier schooling grounds for Grand Prix drivers, and giving this year’s competitors the opportunity to learn the management of both ‘prime’ and ‘option’ tyre compounds at each of the seven circuits visited will further strengthen that role. So too will
1. The introduction of a KERS-style over-boost system (by which an extra 50bhp can be summoned 10 times per race)
2. A mandatory pit stop for each race (pits stops previously only applied to the first race of each weekend)
3. The extension of the second race to match that of the first
Said Steve Thompson, European Motorsport Manager for Kumho Tyres: “The new tyres provided our designers with a number of challenges. Firstly, they had to be able to deal with the considerable power, speed and downforce created by these cars. Secondly, we were required to produce one compound that gave consistent performance throughout and one that initially performed better but also degraded faster – thereby providing the teams with a suitably demanding test of strategy and tyre management. The first challenge was meat and drink to our designers, owing to the inherent characteristics of our tyres. The second request was a harder nut to crack!”
Auto GP’s roots lie in the Italian Formula 3000 series of 1999, but was first run in its current format and name in 2010, when it was won by the talented Swiss driver Romain Grosjean. This truly launched his career and he was last year crowned champion of both GP2 and GP2 Asia, and will now partner Kimi Räikkönen in the 2012 Lotus F1 team. The outright winner of Auto GP in 2011 was the precocious 18-year old Italian Kevin Ceccon, who plans to graduate to GP2 this year.
The format of the three-day Auto GP meetings comprises practice on the Friday, qualifying and Race One on Saturday and Race Two on Sunday. The series will visit the following circuits during 2012: Monza (Italy), Valencia (Spain), Marrakech (Morocco), Hungaroring (Hungary), Estoril (Portugal), Curitiba (Brazil) and Sonoma (USA). The Auto GP season kicks off at Monza on March 9/10/11.
Commented Auto GP Series Organiser Enzo Coloni: “Right from the start of our talks with Kumho, it was clear that the company’s approach was a very positive one, aimed at giving us the best possible experience in terms of technical support. Not only did Kumho accept with enthusiasm our proposal for the two different tyre specifications, but it expressed a will to work with us and the teams to achieve the optimum result; something unique in the one-make series scenario. The first step of this process will be the creation of a special super-soft tyre for the Marrakech round; a street track where we expect a very low grip level. Being involved in such a development plan will give our drivers knowledge they couldn’t get anywhere else; a vital experience for their future.”
Added Kumho’s Steve Thompson: “We are delighted to be involved with Auto GP, and excited at furthering our involvement with up and coming F1 drivers that began with long term support for the F3 Euro Series and the annual Masters of F3 meeting. It was through these platforms we assisted the careers of current GP stars Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta, among others. Auto GP is the perfect showcase for us to display our ever-increasing capabilities and we will certainly make the most of the opportunity.”
For further information on Kumho and its products log onto www.kumhotyre.co.uk.