Michelin technical partner teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will get a taste of Le Mans as they compete in this weekend’s Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The two-hour race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the fourth race of the WeatherTech Championship, is the final tune-up for the Corvette, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche GTLM teams headed to France for the Le Mans 24 Hour race in June.
“This will be the first time that our WeatherTech Championship teams race on our latest 2016 specification tires,” said Chris Baker, director motorsport, Michelin North America. “We have run the first three races on our special 2016 ‘low energy circuit’ tires.”
“Our tires used in the FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes Le Mans, are designed for double and triple stints, meaning the tires must deliver exceptionally high and consistent performance for over three hours.”
The WeatherTech Championship has different pit rules permitting tire changes while refueling. Le Mans and WEC separate those functions.
“The challenges at Monterey are a bit different than at Le Mans, but our technical partner teams welcome the opportunity to get actual race miles with the new tires,” Baker said.
“The GTLM class is the only ‘open tire’ class in the WeatherTech Championship and since all of the GTLM teams have chosen Michelin, we can have a great race here in Monterey and give our teams headed to Le Mans a bit of a head start in their preparations.”
The Ford GT, Corvette Racing, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Porsche factory teams will all be competing in the similar WEC GTE-Pro class at Le Mans.
While the hilly 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit is quite different from the 8.47 miles of Le Mans, teams will still gain from the opportunity.
“Whether racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca or at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, teams will be flat out to win,” said Baker.
“The competition in the GT arena is incredibly tight with the GTLM class pole at Long Beach being decided by just three one thousandths of a second between a factory BMW and a factory Porsche.”
WEC opened its 2016 season at Silverstone and will have its final pre-Le Mans race next week at Spa Franchorchamps, Belgium.
“Making the 2016 WEC tires available to our teams in Monterey will help them to be on par with the WEC GTE-Pro teams from Ferrari, Ford… and Porsche at Le Mans,” said Baker.
“We want all of our technical partner teams to be performing at an extraordinarily high level in Monterey and to carry that performance all the way to Le Mans.”
The Michelin GTLM teams have already raced on the current Michelin wet weather tire solutions at Petit Le Mans last fall and Daytona and Sebring this spring.
The BMW Team RLL team is the defending pole and race champions at Monterey, but will not be racing at Le Mans this year.