No major changes are on the horizon for Michelin in terms of tire supply and levels of support entering the second season of its long-term partnership in the IMSA paddock, according to Michelin North America motorsport technical director Ken Payne.
Michelin, which became the official tire of IMSA this year with the exclusive supply of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi, LMP2 and GT Daytona classes as well as the entire Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge grids, has been breaking records on and off the track in all three series with the offering of its extensive range of tires to more than 100 cars.
Payne said not to expect any significant changes on the tire supply front, which will again see the Michelin Pilot Sport S8M and S9M commercial tires for the GTD, GS, TCR and LMP3 classes, although there could be a “modest evolution” to the LMP2-based tire used in the WeatherTech Championship prototype ranks.
“We’re looking at some things based on input and experience with the DPi/LMP2 field,” Payne told Sportscar365. “Currently we have a medium and hard option that are IMSA-specific but are on the WEC [tire] casing.
“We’re looking at some things based on the performance of the current tires and the evolution that we are doing for WEC. We will potentially make a modest evolution in the tires for those cars for the 2020 season.”
GT Le Mans teams, meanwhile, will have access to Michelin’s latest confidential tire offerings that debuted in last month’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Silverstone, which will become IMSA’s 2020 range.
While GTLM will continue with multiple tire compound options over race weekends, Payne confirmed that Michelin will again nominate a single compound ahead of each event for the other classes.
“That’s a joint agreement with IMSA that we’ll keep two compounds, and it will only be a particular compound on an event weekend,” he said.
“GTLM will remain the only truly open category where the tires are unique to the manufacturer and they have multiple solutions at play during a given weekend. Everybody else will be determined in advance.
“Right now, I don’t see anything that’s going to suggest that we change which of the compound ranges is used at each event next year. The same hard/medium mix has been in play this year will likely be in play at a given track again.”
Payne said that his team has learned a lot from its first season in its increased role in the IMSA paddock.
“It’ll be a continued evolution,” he said. “We’ve had a big ramp up in our motorsport tire specialist crew for this season.
“We started that last year with training to build up for this season. We have learned much on how to deploy them and we’ll make some evolutionary changes to that program for 2020.
“At some events we were probably overkill on staffing levels, just because we wanted to make absolutely sure we had enough support for the teams.
“It’s helpful for our supply chain that we’re not going to make any changes. We have gained a year of experience and understanding what the IMSA needs are. That helps our team to prepare for the supply requirements for next season.”
Michelin “Stunned” by Record-Breaking Pace
Payne said he’s been surprised by the record-breaking pace seen in nearly all categories this year, which has been in part credited to Michelin’s lineup of tires.
A total of 78 IMSA track records have been broken so far this year, as of the most recent event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“I’m frankly stunned by the pace,” Payne said. “I really did not expect us to be dropping lap records by seconds at a time and across every lap in the field.
“It’s nice, but it certainly was not an objective of ours.”