The European debut of the Riley Mk. 30 Gibson will come on Michelin tires, with Keating Motorsports team principal Ben Keating confirming he’s has opted to go with the French tire manufacturer for next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Keating will be joined by longtime co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen and GM factory driver on-loan Ricky Taylor for the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
It is one of only four expected LMP2 entries to use Michelins in the 25-car class, joining European Le Mans Series squads IDEC Sport Racing, Panis Barthez Competition as well as 2016-17 Asian Le Mans LMP3 runner-ups ARC Bratislava, which have all entered Ligier JS P217 Gibsons.
“We chose to go with the Michelin tires,” Keating told Sportscar365. “I’m not sure how Michelin is going to compare to the Dunlops that the WEC teams are running.
“There are still some gambles out there and only time will tell.”
Keating is no stranger to the brand, with his Riley Motorsports-entered Dodge Viper GTS-R having utilized Michelins in his Le Mans debut in the GTE-Am class in 2015.
Michelin has made significant off-season strides to its LMP2 tire offerings, having rolled out with an all-new intermediate tire, as well as updating the size of the front tire to adhere to the new regulations.
“We changed a little bit of philosophy to adapt to the race conditions,” said Jerome Mondain, Michelin Endurance Racing Program Manager.
“We were very competitive with our full wet tire for a couple of years but we saw that it didn’t really stick to race strategy and how the races are managed.
“With the new cars and the new regulations, we started from completely [scratch]. We thought it was a good time to change a little bit of the strategy and to have an intermediate [tire] to replace the extreme wet, when there wasn’t a real need right now.”
The Keating team is coming off a two-day test at NOLA Motorsports Park, which saw all three drivers gain seat time ahead of the official test day on June. 4.
“I’ve got a ton of faith in Bob and Bill Riley and their ability to design an incredible car,” Keating said. “They’ve been doing it for so long, they’ve got so many tricks of the trade, I expect the car to be great.
“But you don’t really know until you get to Le Mans and you get to go wheel-to-wheel with some of the other cars.”
Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report