Tuesday 21 August 2018

Michelin Tyres at the WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone

Your scribbler has the enquiring mind of a child! So where did this Michelin and Bibendum business start?

Back in 1894 Edouard and Andre Michelin were in Lyon attending an exhibition and they noticed a pile of used tyres that made Edouard think of a man with no arms.. bit of imagination needed here I agree. Some four years later Andre met a cartoonist called Marius Rossillon. Marius showed him an image that had been rejected by a Munich brewery. It was a cartoon of a sizeable rather regal figure holding a massive glass of beer and quoting Horace’s phrase “Nunc est bibendum” or “now is the time to drink”! André immediately suggested replacing the man with a figure made from tyres. This transformed the earlier image into Michelin's current symbol. Today, Bibendum is one of the world's most recognised trademarks, representing Michelin in over 150 countries. 

Enough history.. back to The 6 Hours of Silverstone! 

Michelin have all but cornered that market in WEC, there are only four cars on the grid using Dunlop. This year’s visit gives the tyre suppliers a new challenge because the entire track has been resurfaced. It will be the first time this has happened in 22 years of hard use. The only chance to test here was at the end of July when the exceptionally hot weather wasn’t really representative of the conditions teams normally encountered at Silverstone.

The long, fast track features ten right-hand and eight left-hand turns which put tremendous strain on tyres. The technical regulations for the 2018/2019 FIA WEC dictate that, Michelin’s partners must use tyres that were developed to cover the entire super-season. Jérôme Mondain who is manager of Michelin Motorsport’s endurance racing programmes tells us that  “Silverstone was recently resurfaced, so it’s like we are going there for the very first time because we have zero data. Based on experience, wear rates are likely to be low if the conditions stay dry due to the new surface’s characteristics. That said, the track promises to heat up in direct sunshine and we could see particularly high ground temperatures which would certainly have an impact on tyre performance. If it rains, the resurfacing probably won’t assist draining, so standing water will tend to accumulate and this will lower the aquaplaning threshold.” 

The regulations state that FIA WEC entries for Silverstone are allowed just 18 tyres in the LM P1, LM P2 and LM GTE Pro classes, but LM GTE Am runners will be able to use up to 26 tyres. Teams will be able to choose between hard- and medium-compound tyres. If it rains, as well it might, they will be able to fit either ‘Wets’ or ‘Full Wets’.Things are a bit different for the LM P1 teams who will have the option of selecting the ‘Hybrid’ intermediate slick for drying conditions.

This Hybrid tyre is just for the LMP1 cars and was introduced to replace the more conventional ‘intermediate’ treaded  tyre for the first time in 2012. It’s revolutionary compound means this pattern-less tyre can be used in damp and drying conditions. Michelin have brought along around 3,200 tyres to Silverstone in order to cover the possible weather conditions and different strategies of its 30 different cars..

Jock Simpson