Since Toyota’s first major victory on Michelin tires in 1992, the two automobile industry giants have worked side-by-side in several forms of topflight motorsport, from world-class endurance racing and rallying, to Formula 1 and Japan’s benchmark Super GT series. This year, they clocked up their fifth straight victory together in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The two firms’ outstanding record began at the snowy Swedish Rally in 1992 when home star Mats Jonsson took the top prize driving a privately-entered Toyota Celica GT4 at a time when the factory operation was competing on the products of a rival tire brand. The very next year, all the factory cars switched to Michelin rubber and Toyota went on to top the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) standings at the end of the season.
After securing a second world rally crown as partners, Toyota and Michelin joined forces in racing at Le Mans, but the competitive Toyota GT-One was beaten by Porsche in 1998, and then by BMW a year later. Determined to make amends in the future, the Japanese make nonetheless scored another world title in the WRC, and also enjoyed success in Super GT before switching to the challenge of Formula 1 in 2002.
Although the program failed to harvest any wins during this period, the team came away with six podium finishes and two pole-positions, as well as a fastest race-lap with Michelin at the championship’s finest circuit – Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium – in 2005.
Following Michelin’s withdrawal from F1 at the end of 2006, and that of Toyota three years later, the two brands pooled their expertise again in 2012 for an assault on the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC).
The make returned to Le Mans with an exciting new Michelin-equipped electric hybrid prototype (the TS030-Hybrid) which, despite its striking look, proved insufficiently reliable in La Sarthe. It soon started enjoying success in the FIA WEC, however; first of all at Brazil’s 6 Hours of Sao Paulo, and then at its home round – the 6 Hours of Fuji – shortly afterwards.
Two years later, it secured endurance racing’s world title but glory at Le Mans continued to evade it. The team famously suffered its cruelest disappointment there in 2014 when the #5 Toyota TS050 Hybrid was sidelined by a technical problem while leading comfortably with a single lap remaining!
Putting that frustration swiftly behind it, however, the Toyota/Michelin partnership went on to post the fastest average speed ever recorded at Le Mans (251kph) in 2017. The following June, it won the race outright and, during the same period, pocketed yet another Manufacturers’ title in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Toyota has since won Le Mans on four further occasions with Michelin, including this year’s race with the Toyota GR010 Hypercar equipped with Pilot Sport tires developed specifically for endurance racing’s exciting new elite class.
Michelin’s record with Toyota
FIA World Endurance Championship
37 race wins
4 Manufacturers’ world titles
Le Mans 24 Hours
5 consecutive wins (2018>2022)
FIA World Rally Championship
4 Manufacturers’ world titles
FIA Formula 1 World Championship
6 podium finishes