The rise of MRF Tyres – in depth with Vivek Ponnusamy PT1

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Australian rallying is the latest battleground for Madras Rubber Factory Tyres, the giant Indian company better known as MRF has lofty ambitions for rallying, taking on stages around the world.

Part of the brief is Asia, New Zealand and Australia.  Undertaking a open tyre arrangement in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and the New Zealand Rally Championship, they have a sole tyre supply for the Australian Rally Championship.

Additionally, they are the naming rights sponsor to the Queensland Rally Championship and South Australian Rally Championship – both of which run an open tyre formula.

I was just looking at my inventory recently. We have 52 different variants of sizes and components to choose from.”

This along with other club activities, presents an interesting challenge for Vivek Ponnusamy – head of Mentor Tyres, the MRF distributor for this region.

“The thing which is interesting – the number of sizes and the patterns and the components we have … I was just looking at my inventory recently. We have 52 different variants of sizes and components to choose from.”

”When you talk about Alpine Rally or East Coast Classic Rally or something that we have older cars, which people love it. We will have a tire for them, unless it is very unique. You have 16-inch tire or a 12-inch tire like for a Mini. We have the maximum number of range of tires available.”

“We are talking rally tires. We are not talking circuit racing, where we have plenty of choices. We are talking rally tires. I think I would reckon that we have the world’s highest in number of sizes we have compared to any other brands. I think so. I’m not sure. But I think so. 52 variants is quite a lot.”

MRF Tyres Queensland Rally Championship, P3 Solutions Benarkin Rally

The run into rallying in Australia sees MRF as a vital partner in rebuilding the sport in this country.  Following the glory days of Group A and Group N, rallying in Australia has struggled to rebuild itself.

Like New Zealand, Australia has taken on the AP4 rules but unlike New Zealand the take up has been slower.

But there have been other initiatives.  These include a reduction in costs and an increase in duration of the tyres to encouraging more cars to compete via the ARC2 initiative.

“I want to support the grassroots. Grassroots starts from the club and state level competitor, right? The upcoming drivers … for example, Wayne Morton from Queensland is one of the perfect examples which we can give, who has absolutely blown our mind, in the way he performs. He is now moving into ARC, to compete against the other top players in Rally Australia.”

MRF Tyres, always have the motive of supporting club and state-level competitors so that translated when CAMS came up with the idea and came to me

“The primary reason for supporting ARC 2 is to develop the budding drivers from the state-level championship in a less affordable money … to get into the national level and still carry on staying with the tag of Australian Rally Championship.”

“Our company, MRF Tyres, always have the motive of supporting club and state-level competitors so that translated when CAMS came up with the idea and came to me. It only took me a few minutes for me to decide, “Yep, I want to be on board,” because the philosophy of CAMS and myself … or myself meaning MRF Tyres, is exactly the same. It’s supporting the grassroots competition.”

Part 2 will take a look at the commitment from India for rallying in this region of the world

 

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Photos by Sam Tickell  November 2017

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