Goodyear is working through a “very intense program” to prepare for its exclusive supply of LMP2 tires in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series next year, according to the company’s endurance program manager Mike McGregor.
Late last year the American brand, which bases its sports car operations in Europe, landed a three-year deal with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest to provide tires for all LMP2 competitors in the WEC and ELMS.
This will also cover all cars competing in the second-tier prototype class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while Michelin will exclusively supply the new Hypercar division.
McGregor explained that Goodyear has been using all of its experiences from the 2019-20 WEC and 2020 ELMS seasons to prepare for its greatly expanded program next year.
The company replaced its subsidiary brand Dunlop at the start of both championships’ current seasons as part of its wider commitment to European motorsport that includes supply deals in FIA WTCR, Pure ETCR and the British Touring Car Championship.
“As we do each of these events, including Le Mans, that helps our experience and understanding of what we’re going to do with the compounds,” McGregor told Sportscar365.
“Straight after the final ELMS race in Portimao [on Nov. 1], we start a test there. We’ll be testing the GTE tires for the ELMS one-brand and the new LMP2 product.
“From there we’re going to Aragon for a few days’ testing. We’re also going to be doing some WEC development because we’re bringing a whole range of tires.
“It will be a full new package next year in terms of intermediate, wet and three brand new slicks. It’s a very intense program to make sure we can get that.
“All of it is helping to build what we’ll put in as a package to start next season.”
Goodyear is aiming to send off its first tire deliveries to teams in January 2021, giving enough time for testing ahead of the start of the WEC season in March.
The single-supply contract is requiring Goodyear to increase its resources as the number of cars using its tires increases dramatically over the winter.
There are currently two Goodyear-shod cars racing full-time in the WEC – the Oreca 07 Gibsons from Jota Sport and Jackie Chan DC Racing – while High Class Racing’s Oreca ran on Goodyears before switching to Michelin from round five at Circuit of The Americas.
Goodyear also supplies four of the 15 LMP2 cars in the ELMS with Michelin catering for the remainder, but this will expand to every entry from the start of 2021.
Sportscar365 understands that Michelin plans to re-assign some of its current LMP2 staff to other parts of the company’s motorsport structure, such as the NLS and national competitions, once its European involvement in the category ends in November.
“We’re quite fortunate that we got on it very quickly pre-COVID to be in a strong position,” McGregor said, regarding Goodyear’s scaling up for its larger program.
“As soon as we knew we had the contract signed, we started training staff to bolster the team of small people. Even then I think there will be more expansion to go with it.
“We’ve just had three new race trailers delivered onto the fleet at the start of this year, to help carry the stock, the tires, and support with the logistics. We built a brand-new office trailer housing up to 18 track support engineers.
“We’re putting all the infrastructure in place to make sure we can do it with the highest level of support.”
McGregor added that Goodyear’s endurance racing return has been a “great learning curve” and that he’s satisfied with the performances of the supplier’s LMP2 teams so far.
Jota Sport is currently second in the WEC LMP2 standings and has taken four podiums in the seven races held so far, including last time out at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while Panis Racing is fifth in the ELMS leaderboard with two rounds to go.
“This was our first season and we put all-new products into this year,” said McGregor.
“It’s been a great learning curve for us to understand, but also it’s very nice to see the level of performance we’ve had in open tire competition, because there aren’t many series still with that.
“To win our first [WEC] race in Shanghai last year was really good for us and helps with that learning curve.
“As the world moves on, we need to move on with it, and make sure that we can bring a tire that goes faster for longer. That’s what we’re looking to do for next season.”