Kumho’s Euro Motorsport HQ Continues to Strengthen
Kumho’s ever-expanding European Motorsport Division has been based on the Stanmore Industrial Estate in Bridgnorth, Shropshire for ten years. Having long since moved from its first building on the site, it has now taken possession of still bigger premises that will allow ongoing growth for some years to come. At any one time the Bridgnorth warehouse is home to thousands of competition tyres. They are manufactured to order in the company’s Korean factories, shipped to Bridgnorth and then supplied to teams and events throughout Europe.
The seven-strong team at Bridgnorth have a pair of fully-equipped trucks with which they provide on-event support to many of the company’s top race and rally competitors. Others are supported by the comprehensive European network of specialist Kumho motorsport tyre dealers. Adjoining the new 28,000 sq ft warehouse is 4,000 sq ft of smart, modern office accommodation for the benefit of both the permanent staff and visiting Kumho executives. There is also a large, state-of-the-art conference room on site.
An integral part of the division’s activities is providing the R&D department and factory with the information they need in order to keep designing and developing winning products. In turn, all the lessons learnt in the heat of the racetrack and the often damp, muddy conditions of the rally stage are incorporated in the design of Kumho’s UHP road tyres, helping to provide them with greater levels of performance.
Kumho Motorsport’s recent successes include victories in the LMP2 Class at Le Mans and the Production Class of the World Rally Championship in Rally Ireland last year, and in both the Manx and Jim Clark rallies this year. The facility supplies all 1600 tyres taken to the annual Masters of Formula Three event – past winners of which include such current F1 stars as Lewis Hamilton and David Coulthard. It is also the official supplier to the 20-race F3 Euro Series, the contract for which has just been extended by another three years.
Rallycross represents another strong area for Kumho. The company is the title sponsor and sole tyre supplier of the MSA British Rallycross Championship. The popular series is contested over seven rounds at circuits in England, Wales and Ireland. Among the 4×4 tyres to be found in the warehouse are the monster 275/65 R18 KL72s that Kumho developed for use in the world’s top rally raid events – not least for the Bowler Wildcat entries. Kumho is currently the only manufacturer producing tyres in the 18in size required by these fearsome 500bhp vehicles. And, following the success of the inaugural version, Kumho is developing one with a deeper tread pattern for improved performance in wet, muddy conditions.
Motorsport’s “increasing role”
Manager Steve Thompson is responsible for all Kumho’s motorsport commitments throughout Europe as well as some events further afield, such as The Silver Fern Rally in New Zealand. Thompson joined Michelin as an apprentice engineer in 1977. Having gained experience of engineering, production management and sales (car and truck) and motorsport, he moved to Kumho in 2001.
Said Thompson, “Motorsport will play an increasing role in Kumho’s strategy as it moves ever-closer to its goal of being among the top five of the world’s tyre manufacturers by the year 2015. Though we have some way to go against such established rivals as Pirelli and Michelin, we are very proud of the results we are achieving.
“Indeed, we have proved that with the strong backing of our R&D facilities both in Korea and the UK, we are capable of developing motorsport products to compete with the best. Courtesy of the new headquarters we can continue to increase our involvement in racing, rallying, rallycross, hillclimbing, sprinting etc, in all of which we have a rapidly growing customer base.”