Motorsport provides the toughest laboratory for testing and developing new products, and the old adage of ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ applies not just to car manufacturers but to companies like Goodyear, too. For this reason, Goodyear has had a rich involvement in various forms of racing for several decades and is proud to have more Formula 1 wins than any other tyre manufacturer and 14 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans among many other impressive accolades.
Goodyear’s second Le Mans win has become one of its most famous. The recent Ford v Ferrari movie brought the story of the triumphant but controversial Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon victory to new audiences. It was also a highly unusual win for a tyre manufacturer, as the switch to Goodyear happened during the race. The story of Le Mans ‘65 could warrant a Hollywood prequel, but for now it's a story that is a highlight of Goodyear’s 122-year hall of fame.
The first Le Mans win: 67 years of preparation
1965 marked Goodyear’s first win at Le Mans. In addition to the works Ferraris, the North American Racing Team (NART), run by US Ferrari importer and three-time Le Mans winner Luigi Chinetti, also represented Maranello. With national pride at stake, NART chose American tyres and this played a role in the outcome. Despite losing an hour in the pits with electrical issues, the pace of Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt moved them relentlessly up the order. It was the first win by a privateer since 1957 and the first international race victory for Goodyear tyres.
There may have been 67 years between the formation of Goodyear and the first Le Mans win, but it was a period of enormous success in American racing. From the dawn of motoring, Goodyear realised that motorsport is a place to learn and develop: something that remains true today and at the core of Goodyear Racing’s philosophy. Charlie Stutz used Goodyear experimental tyres to take the podium in the Indianapolis 500 in 1913.
Six years later, the 100-mph barrier was broken at Indianapolis by Howdy Wilcox, who took his Peugeot to victory on Goodyear. Another eight of the top ten finishers used the Akron-made tyres and Goodyear had truly arrived in top-level motorsport. Two of the drivers completed the 500 miles on one set of tyres, reflecting the drive for performance and durability that is still needed to win at events like Le Mans today.
From NASCAR to global motorsport domination
Between the World Wars, Goodyear reduced its focus on racing, but stormed back in 1957 in the stock car arena with the huge growth of the championship now known as NASCAR. The first Daytona 500 win was in 1960 and by 1962 more NASCAR winners chose Goodyear than any other tyre.
It was time for Goodyear to go global. After a development period in Formula 1 with the all-American Scarab team, Goodyear set up a European racing base and partnered both the Brabham and Honda F1 teams in 1965. Richie Ginther put the Goodyear name in the F1 record books in the same year as Gregory and Rindt did the same at Le Mans. Between 1965 and 1998, Goodyear amassed 368 Formula 1 victories, a record that still stands today.
Endurance racing: Long-distance success
In endurance racing, Goodyear went on to win a total of fourteen 24 Hours of Le Mans between 1965 and 1997, before announcing its return at Le Mans last year. In the 15 months since, Goodyear has expanded even further into several high-level racing disciplines, including prototypes, GTs, touring cars and even electric motorsport.
Endurance racing, however, is a very special challenge for all involved. The physical and mental strain of a 24-hour race is unparalleled in racing and the demands of flat-out performance on the world’s toughest racetracks mean only the best can win. The unique challenges of endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Nürburgring 24 Hours are what draw people to the sport.
Mike Rytokoski, Vice-President, Chief Marketing Officer Europe, Goodyear, says: “The tale of Ford’s iconic Le Mans win in 1966 encapsulates Goodyear’s spirit of passion, performance and innovation. Our desire to uphold these values were key to Goodyear’s return to European and international racing, and the chance to add to our long list of Le Mans victories is highly exciting.”
Ben Crawley, Director Motorsport EMEA, Goodyear, explains: “There is something unique about a 24-hour race like Le Mans, and that’s why we’re so pleased to be back this year. To win a race like this is a truly magnificent achievement and we’re looking to add to our tally in 2020. Goodyear has a long history of success in endurance racing and that speaks volumes about the quality of our products and determination of our associates.”
Goodyear’s Le Mans Hall of Fame
1965: Jochen Rindt/Masten Gregory/Ed Hugus - Ferrari 250 LM – 4677.11 km
1966: Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon - Ford GT40 Mk. II - 4843.09 km
1967: Dan Gurney/A.J. Foyt - Ford GT40 Mk. IV - 5232.9 km
1970: Hans Herrmann/Richard Attwood - Porsche 917K - 4607.81 km
1972: Henri Pescarolo/Graham Hill - Matra-Simca MS670 - 4691.343 km
1973: Henri Pescarolo/Gérard Larrousse - Matra-Simca MS670B - 4853.945 km
1974: Henri Pescarolo/Gérard Larrousse - Matra-Simca MS670C - 4606.571 km
1975: Jacky Ickx/Derek Bell - Mirage GR8-Ford Cosworth - 4594.577 km
1976: Jacky Ickx/Gijs van Lennep - Porsche 936 - 4769.923 km
1980: Jean Rondeau/Jean-Pierre Jaussaud - Rondeau M379B - 4608.02 km
1990: John Nielsen/Price Cobb/Martin Brundle - Jaguar XJR-12 - 4882.4 km
1994: Yannick Dalmas/Hurley Haywood/Mauro Baldi - Porsche Dauer 962 - 4678.4 km
1996: Manuel Reuter/Davy Jones/Alexander Wurz Porsche WSC-95 - 4814.4 km
1997: Michele Alboreto/Stefan Johansson/Tom Kristensen - Porsche WSC-95 - 4909.6 km