On Feb. 23, Bridgestone Americas (Bridgestone) announced significant progress in its efforts to incorporate more sustainable and bio-circular materials into the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. These initiatives will make the upcoming season the most sustainable yet for America’s premier open-wheel racing series, with three key advancements.
As the exclusive tire supplier for the series, Bridgestone will introduce Firestone Firehawk race tires made from guayule desert shrub rubber as the alternate tire in all five street circuits of the 17-race season. This is a four-race increase from the previous season.
Furthermore, the majority of race tires used this season will be produced at the energy-efficient Advanced Test Production Center (ATPC), which has earned International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) PLUS recognition for its transparency and traceability of sustainable raw materials.
“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.”
In the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, the Firestone Firehawk race tire will serve as the alternate 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 upcoming season, Bridgestone plans to provide over 1,900 tires made with sidewall material composed solely of rubber derived from the guayule woody desert shrub, which is grown on the company’s farm in Eloy, Arizona. This initiative builds on the successful competitive debut of guayule race tires at the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville, Tennessee, in August 2022.
Establishing a Bioeconomy with Guayule
In 2012, Bridgestone launched its guayule research initiative by constructing a guayule processing and research center in Mesa, Arizona, where it continues to operate. Additionally, the company maintains a 281-acre guayule farm in Eloy, Arizona.
To date, Bridgestone has invested more than $100 million in commercializing guayule and received 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, which includes an increase in 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.
Bridgestone aims to achieve carbon neutrality and make tires from 100% sustainable materials by 2050, with guayule being a vital component of this plan. The company targets commercial production of guayule-derived natural rubber by the end of the decade.
Bridgestone has achieved its goal of incorporating sustainable practices from farm to track by producing all Firestone Firehawk race tires at its newly ISCC PLUS Certified ATPC located in Akron, Ohio. The facility was awarded the certification on November 2, 2022, for its transparency and traceability of sustainable raw materials, including bio, bio-circular, and circular-based synthetic rubber. This is in line with Bridgestone’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality and manufacturing tires made with 100% sustainable materials by 2050.
The 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will also see the incorporation of ISCC recycled-attributed butadiene, a monomer produced with recycled post-consumer plastic waste, to create the synthetic rubber in all race tires used during the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. The new monomer will replace the fossil-based monomer and will be supplied by Shell, the race series’ official fuel, oil, and lubricant sponsor.
These sustainable solutions align with Bridgestone’s E8 Commitment, which aims to solidify its values and commitment to a more sustainable world. The increased usage of the Firestone Firehawk race tire with guayule, the ISCC PLUS certification, and the new sustainable monomer align with the values “Emotion,” “Ecology,” and “Energy.
Bridgestone Americas Commitment to Sustainability
The company has implemented various initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water usage, promoting sustainable material sourcing, and increasing energy efficiency in its production processes. Additionally, Bridgestone has set ambitious targets for sustainability, including a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions and water usage, and a 100% sustainable materials procurement goal by 2050.
As part of their commitment to sustainability, Bridgestone has also established the Tires4ward program, which aims to repurpose used tires for alternative applications, such as converting them into biofuels, playground surfaces, or even sustainable fashion accessories.