Three new MICHELIN tires for the FIA World Rally Championship
Not one, not two, but three: the MICHELIN LTX Force, Pilot Sport and Pilot Sport FW tires are coming. Gravel, asphalt, driving rain... Together, they take care of every situation. Between Rally Finland and Rallye de France – a period of a little more than two months from the end of July to the first week in October – Michelin will renew the entirety of its range used in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Taking advantage of data collected thanks to its motorsport involvement, but also from other activities, Michelin works constantly to improve its tyres – both those already in existence as well as those still under development. This strategy of ongoing optimisation is one of the founding principles behind an initiative that the company calls ‘MICHELIN Total Performance’. It is a promise – to say nothing of a prowess – whose ultimate aim is to simultaneously push out the envelope in a number of different tyre performance-related areas, some of which are frequently viewed as clashing, such as grip and durability. This provides an insight into the kind of ingenuity that Michelin’s researchers, chemists and engineers must display when it comes to enhancing the all-round characteristics of a tire, be it for mass production or motorsport. Indeed, it was thanks to an array of technological advances (new constructions, alternative tread patterns, specific compounds and state-of-the-art simulation software) that MICHELIN Motorsport developed the three new tires which are now being introduced into the WRC.
MICHELIN LTX Force tire: longer-lasting performance
LTX Force is the commercial designation of MICHELIN's tires that can be found on non-asphalted roads in South America where the name is associated with strength... In the WRC, the MICHELIN LTX Force tire is designed for use on gravel rallies, where stones, rocks and the abrasive nature of the ground subject tires to a punishing test. It is available in two versions – the ‘H4’ (hard compound), which benefits from a new construction that slows down tire shoulder wear, and the ‘S4’ (soft compound), which makes use of a new compound that is less sensitive to heat, thereby retarding abrasion whilst enabling a high level of performance to be maintained over a longer period. These two versions will be available for all the WRC’s gravel rounds beginning with Neste Oil Rally Finland, from July 31 to August 4, 2014.
MICHELIN Pilot Sport tire: versatility personified
This follows the same principle as the gravel tires: ‘H4’ (hard) for the hard version and ‘S4’ (soft) for the soft compound. The MICHELIN Pilot Sport tire is an all-new tire dedicated to asphalt events and its tread is derived from MICHELIN’s ultra-high performance Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires. A new construction allied to a revolutionary high-tech compound enables this tire not only to deliver top-drawer performance over a longer timeframe (a 10% gain in longevity has been achieved), but also to offer spectacular grip levels on both dry and wet surfaces, which is one of the most difficult equations to successfully resolve in the tire industry. With sidewalls benefitting from a velvet-like finish – a hallmark of the brand’s top-of-the-range tires – the MICHELIN Pilot Sport tire will take to the stages for the first time at Rallye de France, which will be held in Alsace from October 3-7, 2014.
MICHELIN Pilot Sport FW: a tire for extreme conditions
The FIA regulations now present the opportunity for teams to benefit from a tire that is specially-designed to cope with extreme weather conditions – particularly heavy rain. The MICHELIN Pilot Sport FW tires (Full Wet) borrows technical characteristics from the snow tire used for Rallye Monte-Carlo, with thick tread blocks separated by a high number of deep grooves that are capable of rapidly expelling a large quantity of water. The compound used for this tire is moreover very soft – in order to provide optimum grip in wet conditions – and the MICHELIN Pilot Sport FW tire was developed to allow WRC1 competitors (the only crews having access to it) to run whatever the conditions. That said, it is not recommended for use on dry or drying asphalt, which would swiftly destroy its tread. This tire will be available for asphalt-based events from Rallye Deutschland (August 21-24, 2014) onwards.
Michelin’s partner teams have already been able to try out these different tires during private test sessions. Early feedback is extremely positive, with improvements noted in a number of areas.