Hoosier: Racing Globally
Hoosier Racing Tire (HRT), the US brand with the vast majority of its racing activities occurring in North America, is now part of the Continental Group. Continental Tire Americas, subsidiary of the Continental group, acquired the company in late 2016.The Lakeville-based Hoosier, which also has a location in Plymouth, is now well set in lane to strengthen its position in the racing tyre segment, John De Salle, President, told Tyre Asia in an exclusive interview.
“Even though HRT sells racing tyres to 80 countries, we had never considered it a global business. In 2016 HRT opened its first company owned sales office outside of the US in Cologne, Germany, with warehousing located near the famous Nurburgring race track. The acquisition by Continental will truly help HRT become a global motorsport tyre company by providing the technical and marketing assistance needed, De Salle said.
“It is our goal to significantly grow HRT’s involvement in motor sport activities globally using multiple tyre brands. Currently we manufacture nearly 1400 different types of race tyres and with Continental’s market presence, we intend to significantly grow our business in the APAC and EMEA regions,” he added.
Hoosier is driven by what the racing series demands, De Salle says. “We believe it is our role to design, test, manufacture and distribute race tyre products that meet the requirements set forth by each racing series. Each motorsport series is an unique business that may desire different tyre performance characteristics that helps them achieve their business model. Some series want very high performing products and costs are not an issue but the number of those business models are dwindling. Other series may want race tyres with reasonable performance parameters along with very good durability to minimise the tyre consumption costs. We like to say ‘before we design we listen’ to what the customer wants and at Hoosier we have the ability to design and manufacture to the customer’s needs. It is always our goal to become a true tyre partner to the series, and not just a tyre supplier.”
He added: “Our vision is for Hoosier Racing Tire to be known as well globally as we are known in the United States. We believe we are the world’s largest race tyre manufacturer, but there are many parts of the world that we are not well known. It’s our desire to become a global motorsports company and when a series is looking for a tyre partner they consider Hoosier at the top of their list.”
De Salle also elaborated on how Hoosier sees its role in the growing racing tyre market. “First and foremost, we are a racing tyre manufacturer focused only on race tyres. We aren’t distracted by designing and manufacturing general consumer car tyres. Racing is part of our DNA. It’s who we are, not just what we do. As I indicated earlier, we listen to our customers and find solutions to their problems. We believe the first priority is to build a safe tyre which is not always easy to do given the rigorous environment that race tires are exposed.
“We are also a full one-stop supplier. We design, manufacture, test and distribute the product but it just doesn’t end there. We send engineers and very experienced product people to help evaluate the product in the field and we continually work on improvement. We have a culture of continuous improvement. We believe in ‘if it’s good make it better.’ We forge deep relationships with customers. We don’t do this as a marketing exercise to promote a brand, we do it as a business and to be successful we must solve customers’ problems better than others.”
Technology adaptation is an integral part of product manufacturing and R&D plays a vital part in this. De Salle said: “We make significant investments in R&D activities, but we are also a company with a long heritage and culture of moving rapidly and not being afraid to fail. We have very creative people who approach problems from a unique perspective and apply solutions that aren’t always readily apparent. I am very proud of the fact that we give people the freedom to make mistakes, we just ask that you don’t make the same mistake twice. If you aren’t routinely making mistakes and learning the 100 ways not to solve a problem then you aren’t trying hard enough.
“We have had a technical alliance with Continental AG that began in 2010, years before their acquisition. They have very bright technical people and we have great respect and admiration of their abilities. It’s been a great relationship and I believe mutually beneficial. We think differently than they do and we approach problems from different perspectives. I’m proud to say that we have learned from each other and we are both stronger because of it.”
The business climate is constantly evolving and the motorsport industry is not immune to it, he observed. From increased environmental and regulatory concerns to a perceived decline in motorsports interest. “Some, but not all, younger people have a different perspective when it comes to driving cars and racing. We love it, the smells, the noise, vibration and the sensation of speed. It’s exhilarating! And there is nothing like trying to solve a technical problem and make the race car go even 0.10 seconds per lap quicker. It’s the constant pursuit of perfection. We all need to recognise that attention spans are getting shorter and people have many more options for entertainment. We must continually evaluate our motorsport industry and make those changes that keep it relevant.
“Just look at the changes that F1 has been making to keep fans interested. We also need to recognise that the days of the internal combustion engine are probably going to come to an end and autonomous vehicles are being rapidly developed and accepted. I don’t know when and I don’t believe it will happen any time soon but you see some of the wonderful technology that is being developed and some of that will begin to impact traditional motorsports.
It used to be that motorsports drove the development of the cars that we drove on a daily basis but with the necessary cost containment programs implemented in most motorsport activities to keep us from spending ourselves into the poor house those developments have slowed. But we must be cognizant to keep motorsports relevant and entertaining. Small fields with minimal passing is not entertainment,” he said.
As for the future of racing tyre industry, De Salle believes that there will always be competition. “The human nature to compete is strong and it’s not going away any time soon. But the realities of motorsports is that cost containment is here to stay and there will be very little if any open competition race tires series. We at Hoosier recognised this trend many years ago and modified our business model to become an expert as a single spec tyre supplier. Those who can satisfy the customers’ demands the best will prosper,” he said.