The Michelin Endurance Cup portion of the 2020 IMSA season resumes this week at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. More than seven months have passed since the Rolex 24 At Daytona weekend in January.
With the new Michelin Endurance Weekend serving as the unofficial halfway point of the revised calendar, this gap between endurance races provides a good time to reflect on all the changes.
The TireRack.com Grand Prix at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, the sixth IMSA event weekend of 2020, kicks off a refreshed second half of the now 11-weekend season.
The first event in this revised calendar is the six-hour replacement event for Watkins Glen International. After that, Mid-Ohio runs in September instead of May.
The Charlotte Roval for GTLM and GTD class competitors is a new venue. Michelin, its technical team and the teams should rely heavily on simulations in addition to limited pre-event testing.
A return to Michelin Raceway for its traditional endurance race – Motul Petit Le Mans – occurs in six weeks on Oct. 17. Teams will have an extra race’s worth of data at this venue they can use in preparation for the 10-hour endurance classic.
Stops at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and then the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring conclude the year. The complexion of the championship is far different in 2020 than in prior years.
Logistics Changes and Preparation
As IMSA was the first of Michelin’s major motorsports championships to resume, Michelin sought to prioritize IMSA tires early on once its production facilities in Clermont-Ferrand, France reopened.
New races in Daytona and Sebring in July required new solutions. Michelin shifted to the harder compound tires across its three IMSA series for those Florida venues. Road America and Virginia International Raceway remained in their initially scheduled dates, with no compound deviations from the original plan.
Foresight allowed for Michelin to prepare and anticipate developments.
One such example comes this weekend in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR class. Michelin will introduce a new front tire, the Michelin Pilot Sport GT S9M+. The new front tire features a revised construction and provides an evolutionary step in collaboration with the IMSA TCR class paddock.
“Michelin took the opportunity in recent months to work with partner teams and IMSA to propose a new tire solution in the TCR class,” said Ken Payne, technical director, motorsport, Michelin North America. “The S9M+ is an evolution targeting improvement to manage the loads imparted upon the tires when fitted to these TCR cars.
“We have to thank everyone involved here to help this process. Our technical center in France placed the priority assignment on this, with significant effort to develop, produce and transport an updated tire amidst a global pandemic.”
“We also have to thank IMSA for their collaboration. While midseason introductions are not usually our preferred course of action, we sought competitor and series feedback to make this happen.”
Versatility in Conditions
Many Michelin Endurance Cup races feature changing conditions, and the adaptability in tire choice is often key to success.
In an endurance race, teams tend to optimize their setup more for the end of the race.
Usually at Michelin Raceway, that’s at night, where ambient and track temperatures drop by 10 to 20 degrees.
This race should be different. With the race occurring on a Saturday afternoon from 11:35 a.m. to 5:35 p.m. ET, the end of the race could be in the hottest temperatures. That’s provided it stays dry and doesn’t rain, as it often does at Michelin Raceway.
Versatility in conditions also highlight Michelin’s newest consumer tire offering, the Michelin CrossClimate 2. Launched in August, the V-shaped tire for passenger and crossover vehicles must be versatile on the road.
With “peerless” performance, the new CrossClimate 2 delivers through wet stopping, longevity, dry grip and snow performance.
Snow and a racetrack rarely intersect, but did so at Michelin Raceway back in February. The TireRack.com Champ Car Endurance Series race started with temperatures barely above freezing before heavy snowfall blanketed the circuit and caused a red flag.
On the bright side, it created some picturesque shots!
Naturally, snow isn’t in the forecast for this weekend’s TireRack.com Grand Prix race. But successfully adapting to changes remains the name of the game for success at Michelin Raceway, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2020.