Kumho Sports Tyre at The ‘Rock’
What better way to launch a new UHP tyre than at the home of the UK’s only US-style oval track. Rockingham Motor Speedway was the backdrop for the launch of Kumho’s latest addition, the ECSTA SPT KU31 last month, and provided international journalists and UK dealers the opportunity to race M3s around on the Korean’s new rubber. The tyre however, is only the first in a string of new products due to be released by the manufacturer this year, as Tyres & Accessories found out.
The new KU31 replaces the Supra 712 to become Kumho’s core UHP offering. The manufacturer’s aim is to capitalise on the success of the 712 whilst updating the technology and design of the tyre it positions in the premium sport section of its portfolio. The ESTA SPT will be available in 72 sizes, including 48 with extra load capability and 31 Y rated tyres, offering 90 per cent market coverage.
Of course the sport version comes with some all-new improvements but interestingly its design brief emphasis was on improving “worst-case scenarios” explains Aaron Neumann of Kumho European Technical Centre. With the worst-case scenario in Europe most likely being a high speed emergency stop on a wet road, says Mr Neumann, the ECSTA SPT focuses on wet grip performance. The tyres new features include patented rotate wear indicators, a new silica based compound and special notches to protect against water turbulence.
Highly Dispersible Silica (HD Silica) has been used to reduce hysteresis and rolling resistance and to improve the performance of the tread compound. To achieve aquaplaning resistance two large channels were created at the centre of the tyre to disperse water through the tread pattern and directional grooves were used in the shoulder to clear water away laterally. The rotation wear indicators are a series of small holes placed across the tread pattern to provide a visual indication as to the tyre wear.
The big news to come from Kumho was that it has developed a run-flat version of the ECSTA SPT tyre. The Kumho XRP features a reinforced sidewall system that will run up to 50 miles at 50 mph after losing pressure says the manufacturer. The run-flat will be progressively introduced to market over the next few months in 16-18 inch sizes and will cover fitments on Mini, BMW, Mercedes and Toyota Lexus. Kumho also claims that when tested against the leading OE run-flat tyre for the Mini its XRP “outperformed” the competition.
The development of the ECSTA SPT, its sizes and types, comes directly in response to growing European demand says the manufacturer, who wants a slice of the world’s biggest high performance market. Sales for V rated tyres in the UK have risen sharply in the last three years, according to Kumho there will be around 9.5 million of these tyres sold by the end of year. As far as run-flats are concerned the company’s research shows that 750,000 of these tyres are fitted to UK cars, the majority of which are self supporting fitments. And with a growing amount of run-flats being fitted as original equipment on BMW and Mini and as an option on Mercedes and Volvo, Kumho says that the segment is bound to increase, and it is positioning itself to acquire some of the business.
Elsewhere in the ECSTA range, new sizes of up to 22 inches will be added to the KU19 UHP tyre in the next few months. It currently features some 26 W and Y rated sizes from 17 to 20 inches. The ECSTA MX KU15 is also now available in sizes up to 19 inches. firstname.lastname@example.org
Motives in Motorsports
In 2004 Kumho recorded US $1.6 billion sales and was ranked 11th in the list of global tyre manufacturers. Its target is to move into 8th position by 2009 and it intends to increase its factories’ capacities to achieve this says Kumho UK managing director Steve Tidmarsh. The manufacturer currently has four factories, which between them produce around 36 million tyres a year. It is also in the process of building another tyre plant in China in order to achieve its goal.
Increasing capacities is only part of Korean manufacturer’s objectives; it also needs to boost the Kumho name across the globe in order to climb the ladder. The manufacturer has of course found a means to accomplish this – through world motorsport.
Kumho is still relatively new to motorsport and originally started in the UK with the MG car club. The reasons behind its involvement are obvious, it makes for good PR and there are endless marketing opportunities through which to increase brand awareness. On a practical level however the manufacturer says it has also relished the chance to test its tyres in extreme conditions and welcomes the forum motorsport has provided for it to develop technologically advanced tyres.
The Korean manufacturer became the official tyre supplier to the new F3 Euro Series in 2003. Two years on it says the investment has been worth it as the series is well established as the training ground for potential F1 drivers. British driver Lewis Hamilton is currently leading the championship and proved his worth at the F3 Marlboro Masters in June at Zandvoort where he shaved half a second off the lap record, setting a time of 1 minute 32.866 seconds, and earning the Kumho Tyres Fastest Lap award. Thirty seven drivers competed in this year’s Marlboro Masters which was watched by 40,000 spectators and was broadcast live into some 5 million Dutch homes, giving Kumho the coverage it seeks to improve brand awareness.
The event’s rules stipulate that each car is allowed to use up to three sets of Kumho S700 slicks and a batch of 800 were specially made for the Zandvoort weekend. The manufacturer’s F3 tyres are developed and tested at its technical centre and manufactured at its Gwangju factory in Korea.
“The increase in brand awareness achieved through our entry into high-end events such as the Marlboro Masters and Europe’s top F3 championship, the Formula 3 Euro Series has been significant,” reported Kumho Tire Europe’s executive director Dong-Keun Cho. “We are delighted to see that Formula 3 is just as popular in Europe as it is in Asia.”
As well as making tyres for F3, the company produces tyres for both tarmac and gravel rally, rallycross and sprint and hillclimb events. It also entered the US Le Mans Series for the first time this year