Prologue debut for Michelin’s 2019/20 WEC tyres
Goodyear is making headlines for its global motorsport comeback but is by no means the only tyre maker presenting its latest tyres for the 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at this week’s Prologue test. Michelin says it has also brought its freshly-developed endurance tyres to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain to give teams and drivers a “valuable opportunity” to fine-tune their cars’ set-ups ahead of the WEC season opener at Silverstone on 1 September.
Working in close collaboration with its manufacturer and team partners, Michelin Motorsport’s engineers have produced new tyre ranges for all four WEC classes. According to the tyre maker, the new ranges not only take into account the changes made to the latest-spec cars, but also “address the challenges inherent in the 2019/2020 calendar.”
This season’s schedule effectively features a wide variety of circuit layouts and track surfaces, while teams face a broad spectrum of temperatures at races that will last from four to 24 hours. On top of that, regulations introduced for 2019/20 mean teams are no longer permitted to change tyres while refuelling is in progress; this means that multi-stint tyre strategies will likely play a greater role than they did last season.
“We have carried over the same basic range structure for Season 8 of the FIA World Endurance Championship, with a choice of three compound options,” says Pierre Alves, manager of Michelin’s Endurance racing programmes. “Soft, medium and hard slicks will be available in all four classes to enable our partners to benefit from consistent performance whatever the conditions. Their cars naturally evolved in the course of the exceptionally long 2018/2019 championship, so we have taken a fresh look at our tyres’ constructions and tread compounds.
“For example, with Sao Paulo returning to the series, we have revised our ranges to cover an even broader overall spread of track temperatures, from 5°C to 45°C last season to from 5°C to 65°C in 2019/2020, with no detriment to performance,” Alves continues. “The Barcelona Prologue takes place in the middle of the summer, so that should provide us with some good data. At the same time, as always, our aim has been to deliver consistent high performance that lasts lap after lap, a quality that is embedded in Michelin’s DNA and helped to forge the brand’s reputation in endurance racing.
“Last but not least, with the Prologue coming so soon after the end of the Super-Season, we had to contend with significant manufacturing- and logistics-related challenges in recent weeks because we needed to make and supply two very different ranges over a short span of time. That clearly called for careful planning, because the tyres we make for the FIA WEC incorporate classified technologies that necessitate complex processes. But we got the job done and we are now more than ready for the 2019/2020 season which essentially kicks off in Barcelona.”
Michelin’s FIA WEC tyres – Class by class
Hybrid and non-hybrid LMP1 prototypes: Michelin worked closely with Toyota Gazoo Racing to develop its latest tyres for the hybrid LMP1 prototypes in order to continue providing “the best possible package as a function of the technical characteristics of its car which is not only the most powerful on the grid but also features a different front/rear weight distribution compared with the non-hybrid LMP1s.” These cars have four driven wheels, whereas the non-hybrids are rear wheel drive only. For all these reasons, Michelin says it has developed “distinct ranges” for each of the two types of LMP1 prototype.
The tyre maker emphasises that the non-hybrid LMP1 cars evolved the “most significantly in performance terms” during the 2018/19 Super-Season. Michelin therefore paid close attention towards developing tyres for these cars.
Both the hybrid and non-hybrid LMP1 prototypes will run 31/71R18 tyres front and rear. In addition to slick tyres, the tyre maker’s partners in LMP1 will be able to fit the Michelin Hybrid, a ‘slick’ intermediate designed for damp and drying conditions. Wets and Full Wets will be available for heavier rain.
LMP2 prototypes: As in the other classes, Michelin’s engineers have built on the progress they made ahead of the 2018/2019 Super Season to cater for the enhanced performance and efficiency of the LMP2 cars which. Although the 2019/20 LMP2 cars are not radically different to those fielded last season, they’ve benefited from a number of improvements.
In compliance with the regulations, teams will be able to choose between two types of rain tyre: An intermediate with a lightly-grooved pattern and an operating window similar to that of the LMP1 ‘Hybrid’ slick, as well as a more conventional rain tyre with extensive grooving for conditions where higher quantities of water need to be cleared. The tyres for the LMP2 cars are 30/68-18 and 31/71-18 front and rear.
LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am: Here again, the work of Michelin’s engineers focused on its slick compounds in order to cover broader temperature windows. Although the same tyre family covers both classes, variants have been made to match the specific characteristics of vehicles raced by the different manufacturers. As in LMP2, the teams took advantage of the long Super-Season to optimise the performance of their respective cars.
Michelin states that the tyres it supplies to the WEC this season will – as in past years – deliver “consistent performance lap after lap and longevity”.