Super Sebring Becomes the Largest Event in Michelin Motorsport History
Michelin is poised to set a stunning record this week at Sebring International Raceway.
In the storied history of the world’s premier tire maker, stretching back to victory in the 1923 inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Sebring 2022 event will become the largest in Michelin Motorsport history.
Michelin will serve 53 entries in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, 45 entries in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, a similar number of entries in the Porsche Carrera Cup North America and 22 entries in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
In all, that brings the record totals to 163 entries and more than 300 drivers.
To meet those needs, Michelin has filled an enormous 24,000 square-foot tire workshop tent with almost 15,000 tires, four tire mounting lines and a full complement of engineers, tire specialists and support staff.
Michelin teams hold nearly all the IMSA qualifying and race lap records at Sebring as well as the race distance record.
The tire maker has 17 overall victories, including 14 consecutive wins (1999-2013) with BMW, Audi, Porsche, and Peugeot in the pre-2014 era of open-tire competition.
The results led to Michelin being inducted as the only tire maker in the Sebring International Raceway Hall of Fame in 2010.
Behind The Corvette Switch
While Michelin has long enjoyed successful technical partnerships with Porsche and BMW, previous winners at Sebring, they are not the only Michelin linked winners with strong Sebring history. Here are a pair of back stories:
The Sebring paddock and infield were empty when Corvette Racing took to the 3.74-mile circuit for a private test in late 2003.
Stunned to have its Le Mans victory streak decisively ended that June by a Michelin fitted Ferrari, the Corvette team quickly found the Michelin technology delivered an astonishing improvement of nearly three seconds per lap at Sebring.
Corvette Racing went on to break the class lap record more than 20 times on its opening stint in its first race at Sebring in 2004. The team took its first of 10 wins at Sebring with Michelin.
Former Corvette Racing program manager, Doug Fehan, called the switch to Michelin the biggest decision in the program’s history.
This week Corvette Racing is working to optimize its IMSA GTD Pro car for Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor as they adapt to the Michelin commercial tires.
Meanwhile, teammates Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy, work to maximize their proprietary Michelin options in the WEC GTE-Pro class.
Risi Ferrari Insists
As Risi Competizione team principal, Giuseppe Risi, was concluding negotiations for Ferrari cars, engines, factory drivers, and technical support more than a decade ago, he needed one more thing. “I must have Michelin tires to win,” he recalled.
Told that the factory had a relationship with another tire maker and would be unable to share data, Risi simply repeated his position.
The factory advised that the Michelin tires were expensive, but the other tires were free. Risi bluntly told them, “Keep your cars. I need Michelin to win.”
The factory relented and Risi would soon win six consecutive major endurance events with pairs of victories at Le Mans, Petit Le Mans and Sebring.
As factory drivers competed on Michelin tires at Sebring and beyond, they recognized and reported the difference. Ferrari soon switched all its GT teams to Michelin.
Making the Connection
Race wins, records and the relationships with manufacturers and teams are important to Michelin, but the ultimate objective is to develop, showcase and provide outstanding tires to consumers.
The Michelin Bridge across Sebring’s front straightaway exiting Turn 17 is both the literal and symbolic link between the paddock and the fans.
With that connection made, Michelin hopes to continue its success on both sides of that bridge for many years to come.