Firestone optimistic about tweaked Indy 500 tires

Firestone’s tires for the Indianapolis 500 follow a familiar design approach as the previous races held so far in 2024.

With the NTT IndyCar Series having announced its plans in 2023 to contest the entire 2024 season using hybrid engines, Firestone made tires during the offseason that were harder in order to cope with the significant hike in weight and related punishment to the tires that would be introduced with the new energy recovery systems (ERS).

To better manage the 100-plus pounds of ERS heft coming to the field of Dallara DW12s, Firestone produced sturdier tires that would match the heavier cars’ performance attributes at all the tracks on the calendar, including the Indy 500, but with Penske Entertainment’s decision to push hybridization’s debut to July, the harder tires have not worked in a harmonious manner with lighter cars they were never meant to see.

Despite the unintended mismatch caused by the series, Firestone says it has developed a tire for the Indy 500 that should preserve the quality of racing we’ve become accustomed to at the Speedway.

“We did a lot of testing, both with the current car and the new hybrid configuration, and through all of those tests, what we were working to develop was something that would work good on the current car, but also work on their hybrid car,” Cara Krstolic, director of race tire engineering and manufacturing, told RACER.

“Of course, these [hybrid] tests had to happen starting two years ago, and then even last year, and we started production of the tires late last year. That way, we have enough time to do all the measurements of the tires and preparations that we need to do and we take great care and making sure we have good stagger for the race teams, trying to get everybody a consistent left to right side tire difference. That takes some time to get all those measurements and all so we want to pull forward the production as much as we can.

“They are amazing at what they do, and we want to make sure we have a great product release. So early production means that we have to start production before we know whether there’s a hybrid or not, but we have to go into our design with a with something that will work on a hybrid but will also work on the current car. And what we came up with was actually something that would work very well in the current car.”

Krstolic says there are some similarities to last year’s Indy 500 tires along with revisions to compensate for the heavier hybrids.

“It is the same right side compound and then the left side compound is actually a little bit more durable, which would work well if you had a heavier hybrid,” she added. “But it will also work well with our current cars. The one thing that we saw last year was a bit of left side tire wear. Whether it was some cars wearing out the front tire or some cars having issues with wear on the left rear tire.

“So we’ve gone to a more durable left side compound, which have a couple of minor construction changes, and they’re meant to deal with some of the wear some specific teams we’re dealing with. So all in all, the tire is going to be very good for the current car, even though we designed it with the hybrid in mind. What you’ll see there is something that’s still going to be appropriate for the car configuration that we have now.”

When it comes to the quality of competition in the race confidence is high for Krstolic and her Firestone Racing team when it comes to the tires the field of 33 will have to use.

“Yes, absolutely,” she said. “This is not going to be anything drastic from what we normally see at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This race is so important for the racing community and the Firestone brand. It’s something that we take pride in and we’re excited about the tires we’re going to have this year.”

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