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Autosport/Aftermarket Show Kick-Starts 2006

(Clacton, U.K./Tyres & Accessories) Autosport/Aftermarket Show has kicked off the new year with attendance already reported to be 8% ahead of 2004 figures. Tyres & Accessories brings you the all the latest news from the show.

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First off Avon, a company that has one of the largest motorsport involvements in the U.K., announced that it has become the new title sponsor and tyre supplier of the British GT championship. According to the manufacturer, Avon will hold this position for the next three consecutive seasons starting in 2006.

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Avon’s belief in the depth of British GT racing is demonstrated by the fact that the series will sit at the heart of all Avon Tyres marketing in the U.K. during their contractual term. In return, Avon says, British GT will benefit from having a title sponsor that is “committed to the delivery of world leading race tyres and technical service…”

The Melksham-based manufacturer says it will support the British GT Championship with “the largest technical personnel resource to date.” Beyond its tyre supply and advice service, Avon says it will promote and market British GT with an extensive media campaign.

“The sponsorship further confirms Avon’s motorsport pedigree, and our willingness to keep the brand at the forefront of the best and most demanding championships in the world. The GT series delivers real-world appeal for Avon as a proven performance brand,” commented Julian Baldwin, director of marketing and motorsport at Avon Tyres.

British GT series promoter, Stephane Ratel, added: “Avon has built its reputation as one of the best contract motorsport tyre suppliers in the industry; both in terms of product and trackside technical support.”

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In addition to British GT, Avon has one of the largest involvements in motorsport of any U.K. manufacturer. Over the years the manufacturer has been involved in many series similar to GT, including FIA Sportcars, American Le Mans Series and even Le Mans.

Interestingly, in view of the fact that Avon’s Melksham-based parent company recently became Cooper Tire Europe, there was only one mention of Cooper on the entire stand – the unmistakable presence of an A1GP car. Perhaps the recent developments in the company’s motorsport activities reflect its general business plan – increased global presence, while maintaining regional roots.

The Autosport/Aftermarket Show also saw Vredestein provide its usually impressive presence. Following a busy year for parent company Amtel-Vredestein, T&A asked U.K. managing director Bert Stellinga what we can expect in 2006.

This year Vredestein plans to release two new tyres, but details of these products are thin on the ground. New products aside, the company has plans to develop its product portfolio.

During the course of 2005, Vredestein has been steadily building on the distribution of its second-line Maloya brand. Currently there are said to be eight distributors, but this is expected to grow to around a dozen during the next 12 months. The company is currently looking for selected dealers to distribute this product, which has grown in prominence since the Maloya Futura Primato came second in the 2005 Auto Express tyre test.

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In Russia, Amtel-Vredestein (AV) sells Amtel Planet and Amtel Nordmaster brands, while in Europe the company sells Vredestein and Maloya brands. AV also produces and distributes unbranded tyres in Russia. The company reports that it intends to supplement its existing production of Vredestein and Maloya brand tyres by producing the tyres at new facilities in the Russian regions, thereby leveraging Russia’s comparatively low manufacturing costs.

In September 2005, AV began producing Vredestein brand tyres at its Kirov factory. The company says it intends to sell Vredestein brand tyres in Russia and to export Russian-produced Vredestein and Maloya brand tyres to Europe. The word on the street is that when the Amtel makes an appearance in Europe, it will be positioned as a third-line brand behind both the Vredestein and Maloya names.

Fulda, once again sponsored Autosport’s live action arena, and used its exhibition appearance to launch a new product – the Fulda Progresso.

The Progresso features a new silica-based rubber compound, in which the silica molecules are “solidly” interwoven with the polymers. As a result, the new tyre is said to have improved grip, with more surface contact than before. According to Fulda, the updated compound is also able to provide better rolling resistance and therefore improved fuel consumption.

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Nicole Howitt, Fulda’s new brand support manager, commented: “We are extremely proud of the Fulda Progresso and are confident it will be a success in 2006. Fulda has a long standing reputation for high performance tyre technology in the demanding German market and our strong products are starting to come to fruition in the U.K.”

Dunlop occupied its now regular position in front of the main entrance to hall nine. Despite the fact the company didn’t win a best stand award this time, there was still much to draw people’s attention. The presence of the celebrities including motorsport commentary legend and Dunlop ambassador, Murray Walker; and 2005 BTC champion, Matt Neal, certainly served to reinforce the brand’s motorsport pedigree.

Dunlop’s prime position and variety of on-stand attractions made it a good opportunity to promote the 2006 Race Academy. Last year over 8000 people applied and Dunlop is expecting even more potential racing stars to enter this time. The Race Academy competition gives entrants the opportunity to compete in a televised championship race at Donington, before jetting off to Monaco to sample the life of a racing driver.

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Corporate communications manager, James Bailey commented: “The Dunlop Race Academy is an opportunity for people who love racing to experience the real life of a racing driver, both the driving and the lifestyle. We’re looking for competitors who have that true passion for driving that helps them not  only to compete, but succeed in the competition.”

Kumho representatives made it clear the company is in high spirits after its “most successful year ever” in European motorsport. The icing on the cake of the 2005 season was Eugene Donnelly’s outright win in the 2005 Pirelli Irish Tarmac Championship. This year there have been further developments with the sponsorship Donnelly’s car.

Kumho also enjoyed its most successful year so far in the 2005 British Rally Championship, which saw Barry Clark take the production cup and become Junior Champion, while Lorna Smith was Ladies Champion for the second year running.

However, what made the Kumho stand so interesting was its product news. Firstly the company announced that the Ecsta SPT range will be available in 72 sizes by this spring, mostly with extra-load capacity and Y speed ratings. Then there is the news that “several additional sizes” Ecsta SPT XRP [run-flat] are in production planned for a 2006 release.

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But these were all relatively “standard” products. What caught T&A’s attention was the range of novel inventions that are being designed at the company’s international technical centres. For example, how many other manufacturers make tyres that are designed to produce coloured smoke?

The MX-C was produced as a road and track-day tyre with “drifting” in mind. The tyre is now available in blue and yellow smoke versions in addition to the original Kumho red design. Kumho even offers aromatherapy in the form of a scented tyre. These tyres are designed to preserve their aroma for at least a year and have been produced in four different scents: neroli (an orange tree extract), rosemary, lavender and jasmine.

If you were wondering what Kumho expects to get out of such inventions, look no further than the media response these products have received. Following the tyres’ U.K. debut at Rockingham Motor Speedway in July 2005, the tyre was featured on BBC Top Gear the following November.

Micheldever Tyre Services hosted the stand for Falken Tyres in its role of sole distributor. Overall the company said it was satisfied with its appearance at the show, which proved to be “very busy with a high level of qualified leads.”

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At the Falken stand, visitors could examine the new flagship high performance FK 452, as well as other new patterns including the T110 4×4 tyre and the S/TZ-01.

The Falken Girls were also present, attracting visitors to the stand and raising a substantial amount of money for charity by signing their very own Falken Calendars and Posters. And if that wasn’t enough, the stand included a simulator featuring the Gran Turismo 4 racing game.

Micheldever Tyres Services’ representatives reported that the large amount of enquiries generated would translate into more motorists at retailers’ premises, a success that the company aims to replicate in 2007.

Treadsetters’ stand may not have been the largest exhibit at this year’s show, but perhaps it didn’t need to be. Placed at the heart of the aftermarket portion of the exhibition, there was one clear intention – to raise awareness of the Antyre brand. The stand featured a selection of the company’s latest Antyre high-performance offering. Treadsetters’ flagship Antyre product is the HP188, which is available in 35-55 series aspect ratios, 15- to 20-inch diameters and V and Z speed ratings.

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