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Michelin IMSA Insider: New Factors at Play

Inside the changes at play with track resurfacing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca…

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

“It’s Been a Minute…” Or a Decade-and-a-Half…

IMSA stars Joey Hand, Tommy Milner, and Mike Rockenfeller may experience a Tom Cruise style “It’s been a minute…,” moment as they compete on a WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit freshly repaved for the first time in 16 years.

While the configuration, dimensions, and elevation changes of the 2.238-mile circuit remain the same, the Laguna Seca track surface is far different than the circuit which IMSA WeatherTech Championship competitors experienced in recent years.

The three are the only WeatherTech Championship drivers who also competed in the four-hour American Le Mans Series race here following the previous repaving in 2007.

In the years since, the track surface eventually declined leaving a coarse underlayer exposed prior to last June’s repaving.

Photo: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

The New Factors

The circuit repaving brings three elements, two certain to please drivers, with the third a variable.

On a macro level, the repaving produces a smooth and consistent track surface around the entire lap. Taken on a micro level, the materials in the new asphalt offer thousands of microscopic edges offering additional grip as the Michelin tires interact with the new surface.

That smoother, grippier surface, together with Michelin technology is likely to result in quicker lap times and new records.

The third element is a variable, as the fresh paving produces a much darker surface than the weathered and worn gray it replaces.

The darker track absorbs rather than reflects direct sun, which is likely to produce higher track temperatures on a historically sun-sensitive track surface.’

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Tire Strategies Open Up

The first traditional two-hour-and-40-minute race of the season will place a premium on consistent handling over full stints, navigating traffic, and well-judged race and tire strategies.

The extended range of the Michelin GTP tires opens strategic race options.

“At the recent test, we saw very good performance over full stint distances with very little degradation which is in stark contrast to the old surface that produced very high tire degradation, especially on the rear tires,” said Hans Emmel, Michelin WeatherTech series manager.

The GTP allocation is six sets over the weekend of the Michelin Pilot Sport GTP medium compound tires, with just three sets permitted for qualifying and the race.

The GT3-based GTD and GTD Pro class cars will both race on the new Michelin Pilot Sport Pro tires, which have debuted to favorable reviews in 2024. They also have an event allocation of six sets of tires, but unlike their GTP brethren, may use their sets at any time.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Traffic Jams and Hopefully Fewer Cautions

Traffic and track position are traditional factors in Monterey. With a lap time differential of approximately ten seconds per lap, the Hybrid GTP prototypes will encounter the large and stellar field of GT entries from 11 different manufacturers every seven-eight laps.

Last year’s race had 26 full-course yellow laps in its 102 total laps.

The hope is that with a repaved track, the 2024 race will be more like the three prior events which saw just 8/(117), 5/(118), and 3/(119) full course yellow/(race) laps.

A deep and diverse IMSA field of fast cars turning consistent laps on a smooth iconic track in a caution free race would make for a very happy ending.

The latest news, photos and video features from the trusted Sportscar365 web staff.

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