Bridgestone to quit F1 after 2002?

Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone is poised to make its Formula 1 exit at the end of the 2002 season, according to an exclusive in this week's Autosport magazine

Bridgestone to quit F1 after 2002?

No official announcement has been made, but Autosport says that the decision has already been made and that senior management have already been informed. The 2002 pull-out date has been set in order to honour existing contracts with several teams, including McLaren and Ferrari.

Three reasons for a pull-out are cited: firstly, a spending cut-back to prepare for a potentially costly court case over Bridgestone's US brand Firestone and its alleged involvement in a series of fatal road accidents; secondly, a reluctance to continue developing grooved race tyres, and thirdly, the fear of bad publicity stemming from its impending F1 head-to-head with Michelin, which has threatened a series of post-race protests to clarify the rules on groove depth.

Speaking at the Japanese Grand Prix, Bridgestone motorsport manager Taka Hoshio said he was unaware of any decision by Bridgestone to quit the sport.

"As far as I know, we haven't made the decision to pull out," he said. "I know the company has been badly damaged by what has happened in America, but at difficult times it is sometimes more important to do things like F1."

It is unclear whether any decision by Bridgestone to end its F1 participation would also apply to its CART programme with Firestone. But in today's (Wednesday's) Wall Street Journal, its US motorsport director Al Speyer is quoted as saying that the court case will not affect its racing programme in the immediate future.

READ MORE IN THIS WEEK'S AUTOSPORT MAGAZINE

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