Starting with the Rolex 24 at Daytona 24 Hour race and in a multi-year agreement, Michelin will be the Official Tire of IMSA. The partnership includes not only the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, but also two other major IMSA-sanctioned series, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge. What benefits does this association bring Michelin?
First of all, it is important to recall that Michelin has been actively involved in North American endurance racing since 1999 when it became one of the first partners of the newly-created American Le Mans Series in which it notched up 143 race wins.
More recently, Michelin provided tires to competitors in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GTLM class from 2014 until 2018.
Now, Michelin has significantly stepped up its association with IMSA which is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary. The new partnership sees Michelin’s involvement expand to cover all the classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and the IMSA Prototype Challenge. The Rolex 24 at Daytona is also the first round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, which is comprised of the season’s four premier endurance events: the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, Six Hours of Watkins Glen and the season-ending 10 Hours of Petit Le Mans.
“The stakes of this multi-year partnership are threefold,” says Michelin Motorsport Director Matthieu Bonardel. “It is important not only strategically, but also economically and technologically.”
The technological stakes. Endurance racing has been embedded in Michelin’s DNA since it won the first ever Le Mans 24 Hours back in 1923. Ever since, the brand has innovated in association with its automobile manufacturer partners to develop increasingly competitive, longer lasting and safer racing tires. Often, this progress is subsequently carried over to Michelin road tires.
“Our commitment to IMSA fits perfectly with our policy of winning with Michelin drivers on the race track so that we can ultimately satisfy our everyday customers even more effectively,” observes Matthieu Bonardel.
Extremely bumpy circuits like Sebring, in Florida, USA, make huge demands of tire casings, for example, while 24-hour races like Daytona, also in Florida, call for exceptional versatility and durability, combined with maximum safety. “Our IMSA programme will enable Michelin to maintain its technological edge because we will need to provide tires for cars that have very different characteristics and which are run by top teams at extremely varied venues,” adds Matthieu Bonardel. “At the end of the day, rising to challenges of this nature and having to develop solutions to address them helps us to improve our road tires.”
The economical stakes. “Providing tires to 19 different automotive brands for something like 100 cars as different as LMP2 and DPi prototypes, and GTLM and GTD touring cars at 12 races is a huge challenge in production and logistics terms,” underlines Chris Baker, the Director of Michelin Motorsport North America. Like all its endurance racing tires, Michelin’s IMSA tires are developed and made in Clermont-Ferrand, France, by technicians who boast a wealth of expertise in the production of these hand-crafted products. The numbers involved for the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona amount to around 12,750 tires and Michelin’s commitment to IMSA will enable it to consolidate and broaden its retail motorsport tire activities outside of Europe where it has already carved out a significant part of the market.
To meet this twofold challenge, Michelin has had to revise its production planning and engage bespoke human resources not only in Clermont-Ferrand, but also in Greenville, South Carolina, USA, where the 50 motorsport tire specialists delegated to work and liaise with the brand’s different partner teams throughout the season are based. In total, some 100 Michelin engineers, technicians and fitters will attend the 2019 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the first clash of the 2019 campaign.
The strategic stakes. Along with NASCAR and IndyCar, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is one of North America’s three major motorsport series, and the continent’s only endurance racing championship. “Endurance racing requires tires that are competitive and deliver high performance consistently all the way to the finish line. It is also a discipline with which Michelin shares the same values,” says Scott Clark, the President of Michelin North America.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is a vibrant series that enjoys considerable media coverage and a big social media following, boosted by the involvement of household driver names like Fernando Alonso and Juan-Pablo Montoya. Meanwhile, fixtures like the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring attract tens of thousands of passionate and connoisseur fans who are also existing or future buyers of Michelin tires.
Michelin’s partnership with IMSA dovetails perfectly with its efforts to strengthen the brand’s presence and visibility in North America’s premium tire market through endurance racing. Michelin has also lent its name to Road Atlanta – home of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s final round – which officially became Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta at the beginning of 2019.
At the same time, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship provides Michelin with a first class opportunity to work closely with brands such as 2018 champions Chevrolet, Cadillac and Ford, as well as Acura, Porsche, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Ferrari - amongst others - on their motorsport programmes in North America which is a key market for the French company.
Last but by no means least, Michelin’s involvement with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is an extension of its commitment to endurance racing around the world, from the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship, to the European and Asian Le Mans Series.
24 Hours of Le Mans: 27 victories, including an uninterrupted run of 21 straight wins since 1998
FIA World Endurance Championship: 55 victories and 12 world titles
American Le Mans Series: 143 victories and 28 titles
European Le Mans Series: 42 victories and 18 titles
Asian Le Mans Series: 25 victories
24 Hours of Nürburgring: 18 victories
24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: 12 victories
January 26-27: Rolex 24 at Daytona (Daytona Beach, Florida) (24 hours) – all classes
March 10: Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring (Sebring, Florida) (12 hours) – all classes
April 13: BUBBA Burger Sports-Car Grand Prix at Long Beach (California) (1h 40m) – DPi, LMP2 + GTLM
May 5: Acura Sports Car Challenge of Mid-Ohio (Lexington, Ohio) (2h 40m) – all classes
June 1: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (Detroit, Michigan) (1h 40m) DPi, LMP2 + GTD
June 30: Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen (Watkins Glen, New York) (6 hours) – all classes
July 7: Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix (Bowmanville, Ontario) (2h 40m) – all classes
July 20: Northeast Grand Prix (Lakeville, Connecticut) (2h 40m) – GTLM + GTD
August 4: Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin) (2h 40m) – all classes
August 25: Michelin GT Challenge at VIR (Alton, Virginia) (2h 40m) – GTLM + GTD
September 15: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (Monterey, California) (2h 40m) – all classes
October 12: Motul Petit Le Mans (Braselton, Georgia) (10 hours) – all classes
N°5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
N°6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05
N°7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05
N°10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
N°31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
N°50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R
N°54 CORE Autosport Nissan Onroak DPi
N°55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P
N°77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda RT24-P
N°84 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R
N°85 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R
N°18 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca-07
N°38 DragonSpeed Oreca-07
N°52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca-07
N°81 DragonSpeed Oreca-07
N°3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet-Corvette C7.R
N°4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet-Corvette C7.R
N°24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE
N°25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE
N°62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE
N°65 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
N°66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT
N°911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
N°912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
N°8 Starworks Motorsport Audi R8 LMS Evo
N°9 PFaFF Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
N°11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3
N°12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3
N°13 Via Italia Racing Ferrari 488 GT3
N°14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3
N°19 MooreSpeed Audi R8 LMS
N°29 Montaplast avec Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS Evo
N°33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3
N°44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3
N°46 EBIMOTORS SRL Lamborghini Huracan GT3
N°47 Precision Performance Motorsports Lamborghini Huracan GT3
N°48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3
N°51 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3
N°57 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3
N°63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3
N°71 P1 Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3
N°73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R
N°86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3
N°88 WRT Speedstar Audi Sport Audi R8 LMS Evo
N°96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3
N°99 NGT Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R
N°540 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R
LM P2 and DPi
Two compounds nominated for the season, but just one compound available at each race
Three compounds nominated for the season (soft, medium, hard), with a choice of two compounds available at each race
Two compounds nominated for the season, but just one compound available at each race
Wet weather tires
All classes: P2L
Download the Press Release of the Rolex 24 Hours
Download the event card of the Rolex 24 Hours