Michelin will develop “two families” of tires for the Le Mans Hypercar class according to its motorsports director Matthieu Bonardel, who expects to roll out with updates in the first year of the new-for-2020 formula.
Announced last month, the French tire manufacturer will become the exclusive tire supplier of the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top class, which will see new options developed specially for the diverse category that will feature both hypercar-styled prototypes and production-based hypercars.
“We were really waiting for the final decision to be made and now we’re trying to catch up. The race has started with gathering data and trying to make steps,” Bonardel told Sportscar365.
“It’s pretty clear there will be two families of tires.
“There will be a family for the tires that are part of the prototype and there will be another family of tires which are more derived from street cars. Those ones will have a narrower front and wider rear.
“We will end up with a different family of tires based on whether you’re coming from a street car or you really build from scratch as a prototype.
“We have started the development of both families.
“We’ve been doing a lot of simulation work, then machine testing to define what’s the right size, then put the right construction, and first ensuring the tire can support the load.
“This is a back-and-forth [consultation] with the teams. It’s going to take a couple of months until we converge into what looks like the most likely [model].
“Then we’ll hit the track and find something else and then we find something else and start again.”
Bonardel said they will “hopefully” have a Hypercar on the ground testing “1 or 2 months earlier” than Toyota, which has targeted a July 2020 rollout for its GR Super Sport-based prototype hypercar.
Sportscar365, meanwhile, understands that the timeline for Aston Martin’s Valkyrie project puts it at a potential August track debut.
Bonardel indicated that Michelin will take lessons learned from both its range of LMP1 and GTE tires, due to the increased minimum weights and increased loads the class will present.
“We have a mix between the current cars because it will have the high speed from the LMP and the static load will be closer to GTE and the aero from LMP1,” he said.
“We really have a mix, plus hybrid systems and the torque.
“It’s interesting because we don’t have hybrid cars in GTE and with the Toyota in LMP1, it shows us that it puts different stresses, especially on the front axle.
“The balance is completely different and we’ll learn more from tire design from what we have gathered in terms of LMPs.
“After, if there are some specific robust issues associated to the heavy load or wear, we will take the recipes from the GTE learnings.
“It will be a mix. You make a cake and you take a little bit from [each class]. I think we have all of the ingredients to answer the need. The real challenge is that it has to happen on paper.
“It’s really like [baking] a new cake when you are not able to taste it and expecting it’s going to be good. But if you put plenty of good things together that should work.”
Michelin “Working” With FIA, ACO on Extended Tire Development
Bonardel said the Hypercar tires may undergo some “adjustments” in the first year due to the tight timeframe and launch of the class.
“If we were to start the first season with so little experience [in the class]… the cars are going to be almost as quick as the current ones but heavier,” he said.
“For the tires, that means it’s going to be harder and much more energy in the tires. It will challenge us from finding the right technical solution and doing it in a hurry is another challenge.
“What we have discussed with the FIA and ACO is to keep the opportunity to make some [updates] throughout the years.
“For sure, the first year, if we say this is the tire and we keep it for 12 months, there is a good chance we are going to favor robustness, security and safety first.
“Then the performance will not be terrible and the drop-off will be important because we will try to make sure it will last, then it will wear.
“It will take time to find the best compromise between performance, consistency and safety.
“We agreed that the first year is going to be a learning year for everybody and the tire is included as part of that. We might do some adjustments during the first year.”