The Rolex 24 At Daytona, the opening event of the 2020 WeatherTech Championship provided an excellent illustration of the breadth of opportunity, on and off the track, for Michelin to demonstrate its technical prowess and mobility solutions.

 

Michelin brought a new DPi/LMP2 tire into this season and, at the first and longest race, the tire and dedicated technical support helped enabled consistent performance and pace, contributing to a new lap and distance record of 833 laps and 2,965 miles completed.

 

It is this consistent performance, proven through endurance racing, that Michelin designs into its tires to support a performance made to last strategy that filters through its broad line of consumer tires.

The Rallye Monte-Carlo stands apart in the FIA World Rally Championship inasmuch as drivers get to choose between four different types of tyre to cover the unique variety of conditions competitors can encounter on the event, from clear, dry asphalt and temperatures in excess of 10°C to colder, damp roads with frequent portions of ice and snow.

The French tyre manufacturer has been involved in the sport’s topflight competition from Season 1 which began with the 1973 Rallye Monte-Carlo. That event was won by Jean-Claude Andruet in an Alpine-Renault A110 equipped with Michelin tyres and, over the ensuing months, the performance of the team’s four French stars – Bernard Darniche, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Jean-Luc Thérier and Jean-Claude Andruet – clinched the inaugural world title for the French carmaker. Forty-seven years on, Michelin boasts an unrivalled record at WRC level, with 29 Manufacturers’ titles and 27 Drivers’ crowns to its name.

 

The Clermont-Ferrand firm was successful on the world’s leading rallies well before that, too. The podium of the 1954 Rallye Monte-Carlo was an all-Michelin affair, for example, while Citroën chose the brand’s tyres to equip the DSs it ran in in the 1960s.

 

The 2020 World Rally Championship – which promises to see Michelin notch up its 350th world-class victory after the summer – features several important changes compared with recent years. In addition to new-look driver line-ups for Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT, M-Sport WRT and Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, and the absence of Citroën Racing, the calendar brings back three particularly popular venues from the past, namely Kenya, New Zealand and Japan, all of which will provide Michelin with stimulating new challenges.

 

In keeping with tradition, the campaign gets under way with January’s Rallye Monte-Carlo, the most complex round of them all as far as tyre strategy is concerned. For this unique event, Michelin provides four different types of tyre (soft and super-soft asphalt tyres, plus a choice of studded and non-studded snow tyres), compared with just two for other rounds. Indeed, tyres count amongst the parameters that can and really do make a difference in the end result because the weather and the state of the roads have a habit of evolving all the time. For example, it is not uncommon to see crews leave service in bright sunshine, with the thermometer above 0°C, only for them to come across frost, snow and/or ice in the mountains where the stages take place. In the period of two hours or more that elapses between the moment safety crews cover the route and the official stage start, the conditions can shift significantly, making tyre strategy an extremely complex business. It is for this reason that the drivers almost always carry two spares in order to cover as many options as possible.

The 2020 Santiago E-Prix took place in a buzzing atmosphere, with packed grandstands in spite of the searing heat which didn’t deter fans from flocking into the Chilean capital’s Parque O’Higgins, the wooded recreational park in the city centre which hosted the circuit. A particularly popular attraction was the Allianz E-Village which allowed spectators to follow the race on a giant screen free of charge.

 

The event’s success provided further evidence of the South American public’s passion for world-class motor racing and they were rewarded with a highly entertaining race.

 

The weather forecasters’ predictions of temperatures of up to 35°C proved accurate as the mercury climbed to 34°C, while the track temperature peaked at 52°C. Although this fell slightly short of last year’s figures, when the thermometer soared to 40°C and the circuit’s asphalt reached 62°C, the 2020 Santiago E-Prix – the third to be hosted by the city – was as punishing as ever for the drivers, their cars and their tyres.

 

Despite these harsh conditions, lap times were significantly faster this time around and the drivers lapped the 2.3-kilometre circuit some four seconds faster on average.

After Rebellion Racing’s win in Shanghai, China, Toyota Gazoo Racing bounced back to secure first and second places in Bahrain with the N°7 and N°8 TS050-Hybrids of Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez and Buemi/Nakajima/Hartley respectively. Shanghai victors Senna/Menezes/Nato (N°1 Rebellion R13-Gibson) were third over the line.

 

A tangle between the pole-winning Rebellion and one of the Team LNT-run Ginetta G60-LT-P1-AERs on Lap 1 allowed the N°7 Toyota TS050-Hybrid to take command. The N°8 sister prototype was forced off the track to avoid getting caught up in the collision, but it was back up to second place within the opening hour. Switzerland’s Sébastien Buemi was helped as he warded off pressure from Ginetta and Rebellion by a double-stint strategy from the outset, which saved valuable time during his first refuelling stop.

The two races of the 2019/2020 ABB FIA Formula E Championship’s opening meeting in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, saw Michelin deliver another demonstration of the overall performance of the MICHELIN Pilot Sport which made its debut in the series in 2018/2019. This season sees the MICHELIN Pilot Sport become the first connected tyre to be used in motor racing thanks to Michelin Track Connect which features a sensor positioned inside the cover.

 

The weekend in Saudi Arabia effectively saw Michelin inaugurated a new system to monitor the tyre pressures ran by the championship’s all-electric single-seater race cars. Michelin Track Connect for Formula E allows tyre pressures to be monitored automatically and reliably – whether hot or cold. This new solution addresses a demand expressed by motorsport’s governing body, the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), which has incorporated its use into Formula E’s regulations, as well as by the teams and the championship’s promoter. Michelin Track Connect for Formula E uses a Michelin-designed and developed sensor located in a specific housing inside the MICHELIN Pilot Sport tyres that feature in the series. The data it collects is transmitted in encrypted form to the FIA and Michelin, who are the only recipients. Not only does this ensure that the information remains confidential, but it also allows the FIA to check minimum tyre pressures are adhered to. In addition to saving time, it is additional reassurance for the teams and helps to streamline the running of race days. The two e-prix in Diriyah marked the technology’s first competitive outing.

Group Michelin uses Formula E as a laboratory to foster innovation that will help it to achieve its sustainable mobility-related objectives in the interests of all, namely enhanced safety, increasingly sustainable materials, the expansion of electric mobility and accelerated connected mobility.

 

Michelin Track Connect: a connected solution that fits perfectly with Formula E’s avant-garde positioning.

 

The MICHELIN Pilot Sport is the third-generation of the Michelin tyre developed especially for Formula E.

 

For the first time, Formula E grids will comprise 12 teams and 24 drivers.

 

The calendar of Formula E’s Season 6 will run from November 2019 to July 2020, with a schedule of 14 races at 12 different venues.

 

Michelin is also a partner of the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy for the second season running.

As teams arrived in New South Wales earlier this week for the 2019 Rally Australia, the stakes were different to those that were at play when the same fixture was the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship’s curtain-closer. At the same time last year, both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles were still up for grabs, with M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC, now Citroën C3 WRC) just three points clear of Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC). The French pair went on to claim their sixth straight crown…

This season, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) wrapped up the Drivers’ fight in Spain, on October 27, which meant all eyes in Australia were going to be on the battle for the top Manufacturers’ prize between Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT and Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT who were split by 18 points with 43 available.

 

Due to the wildfires that have devastated large swathes of Australian bush and forest in recent days, however, that battle failed to materialise and the classification remained as it stood before the trip out to the southern hemisphere. The catastrophic circumstances initially prompted the organisers to reduce its originally-planned route (1,084km, including 324.53km against-the-clock) by two-thirds. But as the situation in the Coffs Harbour region worsened, they had no choice but to cancel their event altogether for obvious safety reasons. Following this decision, the WRC promoter channelled its resources into assisting the local firefighters and providing what help it could to the local population.

Round 3 of the 2019/2020 FIA World Rally Championship was won by the N°1 Rebellion R13 of Bruno Senna/Gustavo Menezes/Norman Nato who started China’s round of the FIA WEC from pole position after topping Saturday’s qualifying on Michelin rubber. Second and third were the similarly Michelin-equipped N°8 and N°7 Toyota TS050 Hybrids in the hands of Mike Conway/Kamui Kobayashi/Jose María López and Sébastien Buemi/Kazuki Nakajima/Brendon Hartley respectively.

 

In contrast, the French firm’s LMP2 partners were down on luck in Shanghai. The class’s pole-winning N°42 ORECA 07-Gibson of Cool Racing, Lapierre/Borga/Coigny was halted by Race Control after suffering an electronics problem, while the N°22 United Autosports car of Hanson/Albuquerque/Di Resta lost power after debris got blocked in the air intake of its engine, eliminating it from the scrap for victory. Despite an unscheduled pit stop to cure the problem on Lap 8, it still completed the distance in third place – just 21 seconds short of the winner – to showcase the potential of its Michelin rubber both in qualifying and on race day.

 

The LMGTE Pro class was topped by the N°92 Porsche 911 RSR of Christensen/Estre, ahead of Bruni/Lietz’s N°91 sister car and Aston Martin Racing’s N°97 Vantage AMR (Lynn/Martin). The LM GTE Am order was topped by the N°90 TF Sport-run Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Eastwood/Yoluc/Adam, ahead of the N°57 Porsche 911 RSR (PROJECT 1, Keating/Ten Voorde/Bleekemolen) and the Aston Martin Racing-tended N°98 Vantage AMR (Dalla Lana/Turner/Gunn). All six cars were equipped with Michelin tyres.

 

As was the case at the season’s curtain raiser at Silverstone, Great Britain, the race’s four-hour format (instead of six hours, as in 2018/2019) kept spectators entertained as the teams opted for a variety of different strategies.

 

The 5.451-kilometre Shanghai International Circuit is notoriously hard on tyres due in part to its layout which features a combination of short straights, slow turns and two fast sections which result in different aerodynamic constraints, with tyres having to adjust to the constantly changing downforce levels. The surface, meanwhile, is one of the most abrasive of the championship.

Second place on the 2019 RallyRACC Catalunya-Rally de España – which Michelin won for the 19th time with Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC) – sufficed for Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) to claim the FIA World Rally Championship’s Drivers’ and Co-Drivers’ crowns for the first time. The smartly-paced performance of the 32-year old Estonians was rewarded when they sealed the title by winning the Power Stage which promoted them to second place and earned them sufficient points to settle the chase, aided by their maturity which has flourished during their time with Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT.
As the first non-Frenchman to win the Drivers’ championship since 2003, Tänak has stemmed a long sequence of 15 years dominated by Sébastien Loeb (nine titles) and Sébastien Ogier (six).
The 2019 season has seen Tänak and Järveoja showcase their all-round skills with victories on events as contrasting as Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Finland, Germany and Wales, and the same versatility helped them to secure the result they were targeting in Spain where Leg 1 featured gravel stages before a switch to asphalt for Days 2 and 3.
Although Toyota won the Manufacturers’ title in 2018, the last crew to claim the Drivers’ crown in one of its cars were Frenchmen Didier Auriol and Bernard Occelli in 1994 in a Celica Turbo 4WD which, like today’s Yaris WRC, was equipped with Michelin tyres.

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