Guayule Rubber To Serve as Alternate Tire at All Street Races
Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) announced Feb. 23 that major strides have been made during the offseason to incorporate more sustainable and bio-circular materials into the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, highlighting the advancement of three key initiatives that will make the upcoming season the most sustainable to date for America’s premier open-wheel racing series.
As the series’ exclusive tire supplier, Bridgestone will feature Firestone Firehawk race tires made with rubber derived from the guayule desert shrub as the alternate tire in all five street circuits of the 17-race season, a four-race increase from the 2023 season.
Additionally, the majority of race tires used this season will be manufactured at the energy-efficient Advanced Test Production Center (ATPC), which has now received International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) PLUS recognition for its transparency and traceability of sustainable raw materials.
Finally, the company will use ISCC mass balance certified synthetic rubber made with recycled plastics in all its race tires for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
“We are driving sustainability in every area of our business, and we’re thrilled to be advancing guayule and other sustainable practices in America’s premier open-wheel racing series,” said Paolo Ferrari, CEO of Bridgestone Americas. “Firestone has a tremendous legacy of innovation and performance in racing, which we will continue to build upon as we move into this new era of cleaner, safer and more sustainable mobility on and off the track.”
Guayule Race Tires for 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES
The Firestone Firehawk race tire will be featured as the alternative tire at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding (March 5), the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 16), the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear (June 4), the Honda Indy Toronto (July 16) and the Music City Grand Prix (Aug. 6).
For the 2023 season, Bridgestone will supply more than 1,900 tires using a sidewall material made exclusively with rubber derived from the guayule woody desert shrub grown on the company’s farm in Eloy, Arizona. The initiative builds on the 2022 competitive debut of guayule race tires at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix last August in Nashville, Tennessee.
Creating a Bioeconomy with Guayule
Bridgestone launched its guayule research initiative in 2012 when it broke ground on a guayule processing and research center in Mesa, Arizona. Today, the company continues to operate the Mesa facility and a 281-acre guayule farm in Eloy, Arizona.
To date, Bridgestone has invested more than $100 million in its efforts to commercialize guayule. Bridgestone is also the recipient of multiple U.S. government research grants for guayule research and development, including from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (July 2017 and November 2022) and from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (September 2021).
In August 2022, Bridgestone announced its plans to invest an additional $42 million to establish commercial operations, with additional investment and expansion. This investment will increase capacity of up to 25,000 additional acres of farmland for planting and harvesting guayule at scale in collaboration and partnership with local U.S. farmers and Native American tribes.
Guayule is part of Bridgestone’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality and make tires from 100% sustainable materials by 2050. The company is targeting commercial production of guayule-derived natural rubber by the end of the decade.
Advanced Tire Production Center with ISCC PLUS Certification
Bridgestone completes its farm-to-track sustainability initiative by manufacturing all Firestone Firehawk race tires at the newly ISCC PLUS certified ATPC in Akron, Ohio.
The certification was awarded to the facility Nov. 2, 2022 for its transparency and traceability of sustainable raw materials including bio, bio-circular and circular-based synthetic rubber. The ATPC is the fourth Bridgestone facility in North America to be awarded the certification.
Sustainable practices in its manufacturing facilities are a critical element of Bridgestone’s sustainability commitments, including its aim to achieve carbon neutrality and tires made with 100% sustainable materials by 2050.
ISCC PLUS certified Circular Butadiene for Tire Production
This year at the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, all race tires – for practice, qualifying and the race – will incorporate ISCC recycled-attributed butadiene, a monomer produced with recycled post-consumer plastic waste, to create the synthetic rubber in the tire. The new monomer will replace the fossil-based monomer and will be supplied by Shell, the race series’ official fuel, oil and lubricant sponsor.
The acceleration of the company’s sustainable solution technologies for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season aligns with the Bridgestone E8 Commitment, which establishes eight values starting with the letter “E” to solidify Bridgestone’s commitment to a more sustainable world. Increasing the usage of the Firestone Firehawk race tire with guayule, the ISCC PLUS certification and the new sustainable monomer are examples of the values “Emotion,” “Ecology” and “Energy.”