“When you can combine leading-edge technology and innovation with a successful brand, motorsports is an incredibly powerful tool.” Chris Baker, director of motorsports, Michelin North America.
While three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes are in Detroit this week for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Michelin and GTLM class technical partners — Corvette Racing, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Porsche — are off to France.
There, they will extend their technical development and marketing reach to a worldwide platform at the June 5 official Test Day and the June 18-19 Le Mans 24 Hours race.
They will be joined at Le Mans by the exotic hybrid Prototypes from Audi, Toyota and the defending race and FIA World Endurance Championship champions from Porsche.
All have chosen Michelin as their respective technical partner.
Technical Prowess + Brand Power
“When a manufacturer, team, or tire maker can consistently prove itself at Le Mans, it demonstrates its technical prowess and brings great credibility to the brand,” said Baker.
“The long term players like Porsche, Ferrari, Audi and Corvette have used their motorsports programs and success at Le Mans and in IMSA to consistently prove themselves and to enhance the value of their brands.
“BMW has a great performance heritage tied to racing what they sell. Consider the tremendous response to Ford’s return to competition with the new Ford GTs; the brand is honoring its history and creating both the race car and streetcar at the same time.
“You can see the credibility and loyalty the car makers have developed with the car corrals and car club initiatives through their success at Le Mans and here in IMSA. The world is watching.
“When you can combine leading-edge technology and innovation with a successful brand, motorsports is an incredibly powerful tool.”
IMSA Teams Prove Their Chops
“Here in the WeatherTech Championship, the class is called ‘GT Le Mans’, to help fans understand the link to Le Mans and it is a testament to the competition here that the North American based teams have enjoyed great success at Le Mans,” said Baker.
Corvette Racing is the defending GTE-Pro class champion at Le Mans, where it has eight class wins.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari team is a three-time Le Mans class champion.
Ford returns to Le Mans with the Ford GT as part of a 50th anniversary of its legendary win in 1966.
Porsche North America’s WeatherTech Championship driver, Nick Tandy, will drive a Porsche GTE-Pro factory entry this year after winning Le Mans overall in 2015. He will be joined by Patrick Pilet and Kevin Estre.
Michelin can measure technical considerations at Le Mans and in the WeatherTech Championship through data from simulations, empirical data from actual testing and on-track performance during races, including lap times, detailed driver feedback and extensive data acquisition and analysis.
“We study grip levels, braking- and driving-torque modes, extended tread life and appropriate thermal management to enable multiple stints and, very importantly, overall drivability,” said Baker.
“We pay close attention to first assessing and then delivering consistency of performance over extended runs and in a variety of conditions.”
“We are driven to expand our Michelin tire performance envelope to deliver improved wet and dry braking, longer tread life, higher lateral grip, lower tire mass, improved rolling resistance and other explicit tire performance parameters. We have over 1.2 million race miles at Le Mans in the past 19 years.
“When you have a wide array of different cars, prepared by top teams and driven by premier drivers all running at the same time on the same track in the same conditions, the data and performance insights are pure gold.”
Fast and Faster
“The key challenge today is to streamline the process to accelerate the integration of our racing innovations into new products that you and I can buy,” said Baker.
“Groupe Michelin’s CEO, Jean-Dominique Senard, recently reminded us, ‘Nothing good comes from being slow. Being slow is just . . . slow.’
“When the car makers come to Michelin first with their biggest technical challenges and most important programs, we know that they are seeing the benefits of our technology and the credibility of our brand with consumers.
“They want us to help them succeed on track and with their consumers. The more closely we can link what we learn here in IMSA and at Le Mans to the street, the better we can serve them.
“That is why it is not unusual for us to have the same engineer lead the development of both the race and street tires to shorten that loop for key vehicles.”
A quick look at the WeatherTech Championship GTLM class entries and their corresponding production vehicles makes it easy to see the connection that Michelin has with its with technical partners.
Michelin is the tire partner not only for the Ford GT, but for the entire Ford Performance portfolio.
The highest-performance versions of Porsches are offered either exclusively or predominantly with Michelin tires.
Michelin has a tire solution homologated for every BMW M series model. The new Ferrari 488 GTB comes equipped with Michelin tires. So does every new Corvette C7.
Dominance on Track and with Consumers
Real world consumers also see the benefits as reflected by Michelin’s considerable success in earning top ratings from both Consumer Reports and its dominance of the “J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction” awards.
“Michelin recently scored our 80th J.D. Power win, a total four times greater than all other tire makers combined,” said Baker.
“Our 80 percent win rate there is nearly identical to our long time win rate here in the WeatherTech Championship and at Le Mans.
“If we can win both on the track and with consumers, we are creating a virtuous circle. And that is the best victory of all.”