Michelin’s first Formula 1 world titles
In 1979, Michelin demonstrated the superiority of its radial tyre technology by claiming the first of its titles in the Formula 1 World Championship. Forty y...
In the course of the past 10 years, Michelin’s increasingly sophisticated, energy-efficient, consistent and, now, connected tyres collected more than 300 world-class victories in disciplines as varied as MotoGP, endurance racing, rallying and Formula E.
In line with the conviction that has inspired Michelin for all of 13 decades, modern tyre innovations like PSS, 2CT and Variable Contact Patch 2.0 – which have all been honed in motorsport and tested in extreme conditions by some of the world’s most talented drivers and riders – are only of value if they serve sustainable mobility.
38,625 kilometres in front!
The decade that is drawing to a close saw Michelin return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2011 with a range of tyres developed specifically for today’s advanced World Rally Cars. To comply with the modern era’s ever more restrictive tyre regulations, and to cover the championship’s unique spectrum of gravel, wintry and asphalt terrain, Michelin Motorsport’s engineers produced an entirely new range of robust, versatile and durable solutions.
The fruit of their work – the LTX Force (initially known as the Michelin Latitude Cross), the X-Ice North and the Pilot Sport – has since evolved season after season and gone on to harvest no fewer than 116 WRC victories, along with the fastest time on 2,121 stages totalling 38,625 kilometres, equivalent to practically once around the Earth!
A ‘Hybrid’ slick for Hybrid prototypes
In the world of circuits, Michelin’s programme has focused on endurance racing which it sees is the perfect discipline to showcase the performance and longevity of its tyres in extreme conditions. In addition to its ongoing unbeaten run at Le Mans which started in 1998, Michelin has been involved in the FIA World Endurance Championship since the competition’s creation in 2012
Working with the likes of Audi, Toyota and Porsche as hybrid power emerged as the norm in the FIA WEC, Michelin Motorsport’s experts joined forces with their fellow engineers at the Group’s Technology Centre near Clermont-Ferrand, France; to develop increasingly competitive, energy-efficient and long-lasting tyres for the sport’s successive generations of prototypes, including the ground-breaking Michelin ‘Hybrid’ slick intermediate which stands out as one of the decade’s major innovations.
Not only have Michelin Pilot Sport Endurance tyres won every one of the 62 FIA WEC races staged, but they have also claimed pole position and posted the fastest race lap each time out. On top of that, Michelin has racked up 57 wins in the fiercely competitive GTE class with such prestigious partners as Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Corvette and Ford, not to mention new distance and lap records at Le Mans.
24 MotoGP records for Michelin tyres
After an eight-year absence from motorcycle racing’s premier series, Michelin returned to the MotoGP World Championship in 2016 when it proposed a switch to 17-inch tyres in order to mirror trends in the two-wheel market. Starting from a clean sheet, its engineers and chemists collaborated with their colleagues at the firm’s Cataroux manufacturing plant to develop a new generation of tyres that has proved every bit as successful as its predecessors.
First time out, in Losail, Qatar, Michelin established new lap and race duration records, and times have since continued to tumble thanks to ongoing work on its Power Slick and Power Rain ranges. In addition to the 73 wins it has scored in MotoGP since 2016, the brand established 24 new records (race duration, lap, race lap, etc.) in 2019 alone.
Smart, energy-efficient tyres
In 2013, Michelin struck a deal to become a founding partner of the FIA’s upcoming new series for all-electric single-seater racing cars. Seven years on from that judicious decision, seven of the world’s biggest car manufacturers are now actively involved in Formula E which will gain world championship status from 2020/2021.
To begin with, Michelin’s developers faced a considerable technological challenge inasmuch as the series was to feature a single tyre to cover all the possible types of conditions. The result was an 18-inch cover that has since proved not only exceptionally energy-efficient and versatile but also capable of delivering high performance at the street circuits visited by the championship which tend not to provide much grip.
Formula E’s latest-generation Michelin Pilot Sport is now a smart tyre following the integration of a system known as Michelin Track Connect that allows tyre pressures to be monitored in real time, much like the solution that equips the high-performance Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 Connect.
“We need to keep using motorsport as an exacting laboratory to put the Group’s innovations through their paces, including the use of bio-sourced materials to manufacture our tyres, data sensors, etc.” says Michelin Motorsport Director Matthieu Bonardel. “Our mission is to combine the best possible service to our partner teams before, during and after eventswith respect for the environment at an affordable cost. That’s the future of motorsport.”
With the emergence of electric vehicles, fuel-cell power, Roboraces, artificial intelligence, Concept Vision, Uptis and 4R strategies, the next decade promises to be every bit as stimulating for Michelin Motorsport as the 2010s were in terms of new technologies, innovation, performance and sustainable mobility.