New allocations that will force GTP teams to double stint tires will add “another variable” to the race strategy in the Rolex 24 at Daytona according to multiple drivers as well as Michelin.
The tire allotments for the debuting prototype class has been significantly reduced compared to the DPi era, with each car limited to a total of 21 sets in the race, split between two different compounds for the first time in the series’ top class.
GTP teams are only permitted to utilize up to 33 sets for the Roar and Rolex 24 events combined, compared to 48 sets for last year’s Roar and Rolex.
With up to 30 full-fuel pit stops expected over the course of the race, it means teams will be regularly double stinting, something that hasn’t been seen in the top class in the championship’s ten-year history.
“In partnership with IMSA, one of the goals was to work towards a more sustainable approach to endurance racing,” Michelin IMSA WeatherTech Series manager Hans Emmel told Sportscar365. “Part of that is bringing less tires to the track.
“You produce less tires, you transport less tires, [there’s] less logistics, less raw materials used and so-on. You get that through double stinting and better materials in the tire, newer, better technologies, newer designs of the tire.
“Through less allocation, teams will be double stinting.
“I don’t think they’ll be double stinting all the way through the race; I think you’ll see different approaches from different teams.
“Some people will be double-stinting lefts and then double stinting rights and then double stinting lefts.
“Some might go the approach of running a set of tires, taking that off, and now you have two left sides that you can put back on at another time. There’s a lot you can play with.”
Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Nick Tandy believes the new measures could benefit drivers with experience in other series that routinely double or triple stint, such as the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Tandy is coming off a season in the WEC with Corvette Racing in the now-defunct GTE-Pro class.
“It is a new situation for IMSA, realistically,” he said. “Even when we were racing cars that did hour-long stints, we would always change tires and single stint tires.
“Obviously now the prototypes will have much longer stints but also have to double stint a lot of tire sets, it is something different for the championship.
“I think it’s probably a good thing. It’s an interesting aspect. It’s another variable you put into the strategy of the race and how you set up a car, how you specify stints.
“Here specifically, in the heat of the day is when the tire is going to take its most abuse. You’re going to want to double or triple the tires in the coolest conditions possible.”
In addition to the reduced tire allotments, the stint length has been lengthened, which will see GTP class cars go roughly 50 minutes at Daytona compared to around 38 or 40 minutes in the DPi era.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of randomness of people moving forward and back depending on what tires they are on, and at what stage of life. I think that’s going to be a real challenge,” said Chip Ganassi Racing driver Earl Bamber.
“Drivers are going to have to be patient when they’re on a second stint and someone’s on a new tire. You want something to fight with at the end of the race.
“Our out-lap performance is really slow, so it’s a bit of a catch-22 of how much you gain on the out-lap versus how much you lose.
“At different tracks, we’ve found that the degradation is really good, and at other tracks it’s pretty tough. This is one where it’s pretty tough, so that whole race dynamic is going to be super interesting.”
Michelin’s Emmel believes the new rules will give “everybody something to talk about” not only this weekend but as the season progresses.
“It will be interesting, especially early in the season, because people will be doing things differently and trying different approaches,” he said.
“Like everything in motor racing, I think at some point they’ll converge to similar strategies, whether they’ll double stint early in the race or late or so-on.”
Emmel: SLT Compound Window to Dictate Tire Strategy
The window that IMSA has established for teams to run Michelin’s low-temperature tire option will likely influence the overall strategy of the race according to Emmel.
As confirmed on Wednesday, GTP teams will be permitted to utilize the SLT compound between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the race. Nine of the 21 sets must be SLTs, with the rest of the race running on the ‘soft high-temperature’ tire.
Emmel said that teams, however, are permitted to use the SHT tire during the night “if they can make that tire work.”
“What we want to do is create a window of time in which the SLT will be permitted to be used,” he said. “You could have some teams that feel they can carry the SHT a little bit further, but certainly at the end of the window, you’ll have to be off the SLT.
“If you look at the race, I think — and it’s my own thoughts — that more than likely through safety cars, long yellows and things like that, teams will be trying to save sets of SHT.
“They’re going to want to finish the race probably on several single stints because that’s going to be the fast way to do it.
“I think you’re going to see an interesting game of trying to use as few tires as possible leading up to the crossover to the SLT.
“Once you get to the SLT, they’re not going to worry about using those up because you can’t finish the race on those. It doesn’t help them to save those.
“They’re going to start to look at the race backwards and say, ‘OK, how many tires have I got and how many single stints can I do to finish the race?'”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report