For the 2018 season, the exclusive suppliers of approved tyres were selected following calls for tenders. As part of the FIA Karting Competitions, Bridgestone equipped OK, Vega OK-Junior and LeCont the KZ and KZ2 categories in addition to the FIA Karting Academy Trophy and the FIA Karting Endurance Championship.
Many thanks to Annemiek Bonenkamp for Bridgestone Motorsport, Paolo Bombarra for LeCont SrL and Paolo Mantese for Vega SrL for answering these questions.
WHAT DID THE CIK-FIA COMPETITIONS REPRESENT IN YOUR 2018 SEASON IN TERMS OF COMMERCIAL AND SPIN-OFF BENEFITS?
Bridgestone: You don’t need to be a genius to understand that with the constraints of an FIA Karting Championship, the commercial advantage is not the same as when selling the same tyres in a shop. However, this is not the primary goal of our participation. The FIA Karting Championships represent the top of Karting, Bridgestone has supported the CIK-FIA and its Championships for longer than any other manufacturer, because our philosophy is that the CIK-FIA contributes to developing our sport, and that this also benefits our commercial interests.
LeCont: Being selected by the CIK-FIA as an official supplier is undeniably an asset to increase the awareness of a brand like LeCont. The profit is more about marketing than financial, as the services provided are still expensive. LeCont has once again demonstrated its know-how at the highest level of Competition and the repercussions are significant for all of our sales. The lessons that can be learned from such a season are numerous. In addition, Endurance is a very interesting field of technical experimentation which allows us to progress a lot in a short time.
Vega: We have always supported the competitors by our presence at the tracks, but 2018 was a special year, as we spent a lot more energy on service and technical support. Providing the best product is not enough. At Competitions of this level, we need to guarantee the best technical support and the best service to teams and Drivers. It has always been one of our strengths. We took advantage of the presence of a new member of our team, the Frenchman Jules Credeville, who became our representative in the Karting paddocks.
WHAT WERE THE CONSTRAINTS OF YOUR CATEGORY?
Bridgestone: The OK concept, whether for OK or OK-Junior, put the direct-drive karts back to the forefront as they were in the good old days of 100cc engines. Bridgestone was the leading tyre manufacturer of the time, and we are proud to have been associated with the OK class in its most successful year so far.
LeCont: The high power and weight of the KZ and KZ2, combined with the brutality of gear shifting, is a huge drain on tyres. They must have a strong grip during acceleration, braking and cornering without restricting the kart on the exit of the curve, while respecting the minimum longevity imposed by the regulations on any type of track. On the other hand, we must not forget that the tyres are homologated for a period of three years and that they cannot be changed during this time. LeCont is delighted to have once again responded to all these constraints in 2018.
Vega: OK-Junior is a very technical category because the Drivers are very young and have to learn how the tyres work. With Option tyres, which are relatively hard, being able to reach a good temperature to achieve maximum grip and be effective in the first few laps has been the key to success.
ARE YOU PLANNING TO PARTICIPATE IN THE TENDER FOR THE 2019 SEASON? WITH WHAT AMBITIONS?
Bridgestone: Bridgestone has always submitted an offer since the day the tender started and there is no reason not to do so for 2019. It is quite obvious that if you participate, you want to to be involved.
LeCont: The answer is obviously yes. LeCont waited until the end of 2010 to present its first tender to the CIK FIA and has always participated since. Selected in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018, LeCont has no intention of interrupting its participation in CIK-FIA tenders in all categories. Especially since the opening of our new Italian factory is near and our production capacity will increase significantly.
Vega: We consider ourselves a reliable partner of the FIA without interruption for 40 years. The important thing is to ensure the continuity of the technical evolution on the track. Our ambition has always been to be recognised as the best manufacturer of karting tyres on the market, to serve the sport in the best possible way and to guarantee the maximum fairness to the Drivers.