ERJ staff report (TP)
Birmingham, UK − The £9bn (€10.9bn) motorsport industry will be hit hard if Goodyear Dunlop presses ahead with plans to close its Birmingham tire factory, manufacturers and politicians have warned, reported Jonathan Walker for The Birmingham Post.
Proposals to shift production of high performance tires from the Dunlop Motorsport factory in Erdington (Birmingham) to a plant in Germany are likely to leave parts of the industry in the UK without a supplier, it was claimed.
Goodyear Dunlop will continue to supply tires to the top end of the industry but the grassroots will be neglected, said Steve Neal, founder and chairman of West Bromwich-based alloy wheel manufacturer Rimstock.
Rimstock supplies wheels for vehicles ranging from mainstream production vehicles to concept car one off models, which means it manufactures many of the wheels Dunlop Motorsport tires are fitted to, and is the last wheel manufacturer of its kind remaining in the UK.
Neal said: “We very strongly believe that brands like Dunlop should not be exported along with all our other classics. We’ve already lost a lot of them – we don’t really want to see that happen again.”
He said Goodyear Dunlop would continue supplying tires to motorsport teams competing at an international level, “but if it is for lower-level motor racing or national championships then I don’t think they are going to be interested because they can’t see a value in it.
“A lot of motorsport would be struggling to buy tire supplies.”
The facilities in Germany, where tire production is apparently moving to, have limited capacity, he said.
“I would feel very sorry to see the grass roots of these motor sports being denied tires because of the transfer of the whole operation into Germany.
“They would be selective and pick the stuff of value to them and then just drop the rest of it.”
The Birmingham Post recently reported on huge growth in motorsport, with the sector recording sales of £9bn (€10.9bn) in 2012.
A study commissioned by the Motorsport Industry Association found there are 4,300 businesses in the UK which owe their existence to motorsport, accounting for nearly 41,000 jobs.
However, Neal said the Dunlop Motorsport announcement sets the sector back.
He added: “The bad thing is to lose something else from British manufacturing. We can’t afford to do that.
“We need to keep our automotive supply chain here. We don’t want to be importing components to build our cars, whether they be race cars or road cars.”
Neal is a former motorsport driver who competed internationally in the 1960s and 1970, driving a Mini Cooper in many events.
His son, Matt Neal, won the British Touring Car Championship in 2005, 2006 and 2011 and currently races for Honda.
MP (Member of Parliament) Richard Burden (Labour Northfield), Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group, said: “A lot of the tires that Dunlop Motorsport are quite specialist and produced in low volumes.
“Within the UK there is a lot of grassroots motorsport which is Dunlop have been the mainstay suppliers for, for a long time.
“Often you will find small clubs are relying on Dunlop to supply their tires. So I think there will be a hit on grassroots motorsport, either through prices going up or Goodyear Dunlop deciding it’s just not worth their while.”
The low-level clubs were the backbone of the industry, he said.
“The consequences of this could be quite severe.”
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Full story from The Birmingham Post