According to Michelin motorsports director Matthieu Bonardel, Michelin plans to develop two tire families for the Le Mans Hypercar class. It was earlier announced that Michelin would be the full tire supplier for the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Bonardel is expected to release more details and updates as the program rolls out for 2020 and beyond.
The top class of the FIA Endurance Championship will have a diverse category of production-based hypercars and hyper-car prototypes. Michelin tires will offer plenty of options for these categories. In an interview with Sportscar365, Bonardel added that the first steps have already been made. These include gathering data to help out with the upcoming development.
Speaking about the tires, he added that one family will have tires specifically designed for the prototypes and another that is street-car oriented. The latter will have a wider rear and a narrower front. The development of the two tire families has already started. Michelin began with simulation, then went into machine testing to determine the right tire sizes. This was followed by an analysis that determines the right tire construction to ensure that the tire can keep up with the load it is subjected to.
Bonardel said that there is a lot of consultation between the teams to ensure that the project succeeds. It will take several months before Michelin is able to deliver what it has put on paper. After that, the team will hit the track to do trial tests. This process will see them go back and forth making improvements to what they have.
One of the first short-term goals is to release a Hypercar test a month or two earlier than Toyota. The latter plans to release its GR Super Sport prototype hypercar in July 2020. Aston Martin, on the other hand, will debut on the track with the Valkyrie in August.
Bonardel’s team seeks to take lessons from its GTE and LMP1 tires. This is due to the increased loads and increased minimum weights that come with the new categories. Current cars will get to experience the high speed and aerodynamics features of the LMP1 and static load capabilities of the GTE tires. The mix will also add torque and hybrid systems.
It will be like baking a cake. You take a bit from LMP1 and a bit from GTE classes to come up with the best tires. Toyota has already ventured into LMP1 and discovered the different stresses the setup puts on the front axle. LMPs will be a great source of learning for Michelin when it comes to tire design. GTE lessons will be of great help where there are robust issues relating to heavy wear and loading.
The launch of the Hypercar class is just around the corner. According to Bornadel, the timeframe is quite tight and the tires may need to undergo several adjustments in their first year. With little experience, the hypercars will be as quick as their current counterparts, but heavier. The team might also struggle with making changes and finding the right technical solution since they will be in a hurry. To solve this, Michelin has already spoken to ACO and FIA to allow them to make changes continuously throughout the years. It might take a while before they achieve the best balance between consistency, safety, and performance.