Kumho’s Motorsport programme takes on Auto GP
Today’s F1 drivers cut their teeth in one of several formulae, the newest of which, Auto GP, was established in 2010. The winner that year was Romain Grosjean, who now competes alongside former F1 Drivers Champion Kimi Räikkönen at Lotus Renault. The series’ original tyre supplier was Michelin, but the French giant was replaced by Kumho in time for this season’s 14-round championship, which took place at seven venues on three continents. Run in conjunction with the World Touring Car Championship, it has also enjoyed round-by-round coverage on Eurosport.
Kumho has a history of supplying up-and-coming Grand Prix drivers through its long term support of the F3 Euro Series, but in Auto GP the company enjoyed the challenge of providing two specifications of tyre per weekend (just as in F1) that can handle the high downforce and 550bhp of these single-seaters in a range of climates. Kumho called it a good season for all concerned, and the championship produced a British winner – 21 year old Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, who is now being hotly pursued by several GP2 teams for 2013 and hopes to graduate to F1 very soon.
Reporting on his year in Auto GP, Quaife-Hobbs said: “Kumho did a great job with the compounds. Tyre wear may not be quite so fundamental as it is in GP2 and F1, but the required approach is the same and managing the tyres is a key factor in the final result, so I now feel well prepared for the next steps in my career.”
In other two-seater action the Korean manufacturer also replaced Michelin as the official tyre supplier to the 2012 French F4 Championship. Powered by 1600cc Renault engines of 140bhp, the “slicks and wings” series counts current F1 drivers Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Charles Pic (Marussia) among its many successful graduates.
As in previous years Kumho once again supplied all the wet and dry tyres required for Europe’s premier F3 event – the annual ‘Masters of F3’ meeting at Zandvoort, which was won by Prema Powerteam’s Spanish driver, Daniel Juncadella.
Saloon support for Peugeot, Mazda and BMW
Kumho has once again looked after the tyre needs of the Peugeot RCZ Team Nokia, which switched from the diesel class in last season’s Nürburgring-based VLN series to petrol power in 2012. A new Kumho contract for 2012 was to supply all the rubber required for Mazda’s trio of MX5 Championships, which are billed as the biggest of their kind in the UK and Europe. Catering for road legal MX5s through to the full-race, space-framed MX150R models, Kumho says these highly cost-effective series are equally popular with competitors and spectators alike. 2012 marked the 25th year of the BMW Saloon Championship and the 15th consecutive one to boast Kumho support.
Kumho in Rallycross, Autocross and Rallying
This year was the ninth that Kumho has acted as official supplier to the successful French Rallycross Series. It has been the platform for such stars as Ragnotti, Saby, Beltoise, Frequelin, Mamers and France’s undisputed king of the discipline, Jean-Luc Pailler (11 domestic titles), and the discipline remains ever popular with British fans, who can watch the highlights of every round on Motors TV.
Kumho-shod cars also dominated both the Super Buggy and Maxi Tourism categories of this year’s Pirelli-sponsored French Autocross championship, while the company has continued to be a major supporter of domestic and European rallying, from which this season’s many successes include: the winner of the Norwegian Rally Championship – Frank Larsen in his Ford Fiesta R2; the winner of the MSA Tarmac Rally Championship GpN class – Rob Tout, driving a Mitsubishi Evo 9; and the runner up of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship – Garry Jennings, in a Subaru Impreza S14 WRC.
Kumho’s Bridgnorth-based European Motorsport Department manager Steve Thompson comments: “This year has been notable for the breadth of our success. The step up from many years in the cauldron of the F3 Euro Series to Auto GP was a challenge for our technical team, which they rose to with typical aplomb, and it’s certainly been rewarding to play such a vital role in the grooming of the next crop of F1 drivers.
“Rallying continues to be a very important discipline for us, and Frank Larsen should be heartily congratulated on his 4th in class in the Finnish round of the World Rally Championship, as well as his much-deserved outright victory in the Norwegian Rally Championship.
“Kumho Motorsport now looks forward to 2013, for which we have some particularly exciting plans.”