World endurance championship: resistance through tires
Competitions are the perfect laboratory for experimenting with innovations to deal with driver issues. By reducing the number of tire sets that can be used during races, the World Endurance Championship regulations are challenging tire performance over the long-term. And that’s great for us!
For the 2017 World Endurance Championship season, the only significant change in regulations was about tires. For the 6-hour races, teams can only have 4 tire sets instead of 6 for the entire weekend - qualifiers and races. Only the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an exceptional race, is not affected by the new regulations. In practice, this means that some of these tire sets need to be used as a double relay, for two hours. They therefore need to be capable of traveling around 400 km (250 miles) at an average speed of 200 kph (125 mph), peaking at 300 kph (186 mph)!
The objective of this change is clear: reduce by a third the number of tires used during the season (a huge number) and encourage tire manufacturers to innovate and provide better wear-resistance without sacrificing performance.
At Michelin, we have been working on a more abstemious approach to endurance for several years. Already in 2014, we reduced the size of tires used in the top LMP 1 category, which was a success! We are therefore delighted with this new regulation. Firstly because it brings one of our major concerns to the fore in the competition environment: safe and high-performing tires from the first to the last mile. By proposing tires capable of traveling further on the track and the road, we are offering a two-fold benefit: less materials used and less CO2 emitted. And this new regulation makes tires a key challenge for the championship! For over a year, we have been running trials with 8 partner teams (13 cars) to be ready for this season. For the first races, the results speak for themselves: victories in the three categories where Michelin is represented (LMP 1, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am) at the 6 Hours of Silverstone, and victory in the LMP1 and LMGTE Pro categories at the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, where all the vehicles sporting Michelin tires finished. Another positive: in these two races, the winners traveled further than the 2016 race distance.
24 Hours of Le Mans
Tires on display!
With the new regulation, tires are more than ever before the key focus of the race. The choices made by teams and their technical advisors are decisive. The type of rubber used - Soft, Medium or Hard - is now shown in real-time on the screen during the race. This innovation, made possible with RFID chips, will make the race and the team strategies easier for fans to understand.