You would expect Michelin and Watkins Glen International Raceway, two of the most iconic names in racing, to have a lot of shared history. After all, Ferrari’s Carlos Reutemann (1978) and Gilles Villeneuve (1979) both claimed U.S. Grand Prix victories in Formula 1 at The Glen for Michelin.
But the third of the four IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races will be only the second time that Michelin has fitted the IMSA field at WGI.
Prior to the merger of the American Le Mans Series and Grand Am, Michelin was often chosen by most of the ALMS field.
“We’ve been going to Sebring, Long Beach, Detroit, Mid-Ohio, Road America, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, Virginia International Raceway, Lime Rock, Road Atlanta all through the ALMS years, but Daytona and Watkins Glen were not part of that in the later years of ALMS,” said Hans Emmel, the Michelin IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series Manager.
The post-merger IMSA schedule added the prestigious events at Daytona and Watkins Glen.
Since then, The Roar Before the 24 and the Rolex 24 have provided Michelin tens of thousands of miles and experience at Daytona International Speedway.
And there is no shortage of track experience and history at the second Endurance Cup venue, Sebring, where Michelin is the official tire and the only tire maker inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame.
The fourth and final round of the 2021 Michelin Endurance Cup also takes place on very familiar grounds, at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, just 100 miles from the Michelin North American headquarters, technical center, and proving grounds.
But with Michelin limited post-merger to the GTLM class until 2019, and no race in 2020, there is not as much Michelin experience at the fast and demanding 3.4-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen circuit that features more than 140 feet of elevation change.
In 2019, Michelin fitted IMSA Prototype Challenge, Michelin Pilot Challenge and WeatherTech Championship competitors racked up 46,000 miles in official practice, qualifying, warm-up, and race sessions. Michelin engineers expect to add approximately 50,00 miles in 2021.
By comparison, Michelin has logged nearly three million miles at Le Mans during its current streak of 23 consecutive overall race victories.
Later this week Michelin expects to rack up significant mileage and insights with the two Porsche Carrera Cup North America races, followed by Saturday’s four-hour Tioga Downs Casino Resort 240 at The Glen and Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Additional miles will come a few days later with the IMSA Prototype Challenge, Watkins Glen 120 for the Michelin Pilot Challenge, and WeatherTech 240 for the WeatherTech Championship.
“Putting cars on track, especially at a demanding circuit like Watkins Glen gives us a deeper understanding of tire performance and helps us to reconcile what we see in simulations and analytics with what we see on track and hear from the drivers and teams,” said Emmel.
“Racing is a constant learning experience. There are always new cars and teams, different weather conditions, changes in the track surface, new curbing, fresh bumps, or technical rules.
“No matter how many times that we go to a track, we always learn something new, and that is part of the challenge.”