Michelin was not involved or asked to place a tender for the spec LMP2 tire contract in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series according to its global motorsports director Matthieu Bonardel.
Announced last weekend in Bahrain, the ACO and Goodyear agreed to a multi-year contract for the single supply of the class, with the American tire manufacturer also becoming a premium partner of the WEC.
Bonardel said that Michelin, which was recently awarded the contract for the exclusive supply in Le Mans Hypercar, was not consulted in the matter.
“There was no tender. We were not involved in the discussion,” he told Sportscar365.
“Hypercar was open to Goodyear and us. We had a chance to bid, but in LMP2, no we were not asked if we would, A: Be interested; B: Ready to propose something.
“It’s something that has happened outside of our scope.
“It’s not necessarily a surprise. The ACO has been quite clear there was an intent to consider that class to be spec tire in the future, not necessarily saying it would happen that quickly.”
ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil confirmed no tender process to make LMP2 a spec tire class for the 2020-21 WEC season, which came after Michelin’s winning Hypercar bid.
“For the ACO, it’s essential to have two tire suppliers in this championship,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365. “It’s important to preserve the future of the championship and not be dependent on one [tire] manufacturer.
“If we opened the possibility of Michelin [to] supply LMP2, it will become Michelin for the complete grid.
“In that situation, we want Goodyear to stay present in the championship.”
Beaumesnil said the introduction of a spec tire to LMP2 has been specifically made to help reduce the category’s performance.
LMP2 cars are due to receive a 40-horsepower reduction in power starting next season in order to place them behind the new-for-2020 Le Mans Hypercar platform.
“The best balance we can find is to make a compromise between power and tire,” Beaumesnil said.
“If you reduce the performance only with power, to get the lap times we need to have, then the car would miss too much top speed and it would be [not enough].
“We want to make sure that we don’t touch the cars’ homologation forms at all, to save costs.
“So then, the two parameters you have are engine and tires.
“With the single supplier, we can define the product.
“If you have a competition between two companies, we will never be able to bring the level of performance to exactly where we want.”
Bonardel Disappointed Tire War is “Dying”
While respecting the ACO for its decision, Michelin’s Bonardel said he had hoped the category, as well as the top class, had remained an open tire formula.
He pointed out the competition between Michelin and Goodyear in LMP2, which is currently the only WEC or ELMS category with multiple tire manufacturers.
“Even in Hypercar, we’ve never been pushing for any kind of control tire whatsoever,” Bonardel said.
“Always the caveat to an open tire competition is that people say it costs money and blah, blah, blah. You hear a lot about too much [development].
“I think in LMP2 we achieved a balance in terms of what kind of spec you can bring in a given season and also try to limit the capability from the manufacturers to bring their ‘best weapon’.
“By regulation, everyone can pretty much purchase a set of the competitors. To some extent, you might not put something [in the tires] that is a secret.
“To me, that’s quite smart, as it’s led to quite a good competition in the last couple of years.
“I’m quite disappointed that the tire war between two serious and solid tire manufacturers is just dying. That’s really what is a shame to some extent.
“We should have taken the LMP2 model and have tried to bring it to LMP1. That’s what I proposed in the beginning. Give a chance to everyone.
“I would have done the opposite but it’s not my choice, it’s the promoter, and we do respect it.”
Goodyear’s spec tire contract, which comes into effect for the 2020-21 WEC season and 2021 in the ELMS, will result in different single-supply deals between LMP2 classes in various ACO-blessed series.
Both the Asian Le Mans Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship have long-term contracts with Michelin, which could present challenges for LMP2 teams wanting to take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will become Goodyear-only class beginning in 2021.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report