The 10th FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) concluded last month in Bahrain with Michelin’s 78th victory in the competition that was first organized in 2012. As it prepares to kick off its second decade in the series, the future couldn’t be rosier for the French tiremaker, with the centenary-celebrating Le Mans 24 Hours looming fast in 2023 and the arrival of additional carmakers in the sport’s bill-topping Hypercar class.
Since the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2012, Michelin has won every round of the FIA WEC staged to date, with either Audi, Porsche, Toyota, Rebellion or Alpine. This record as been forged thanks not only to the brand’s long-time penchant for innovation but also to the performance of its increasingly long-lasting, energy-efficient Pilot Sport range, as well as to the premium service it delivers to its partners in the sport’s top category which permitted open competition between tire companies until 2020.
Taking such contrasting challenges as bumpy Sebring, Interlagos, Spa-Francorchamps’ infamous Eau Rouge, the Porsche Curves at Le Mans, Silverstone’s sweeping corners, Monza’s Parabolica, Fuji’s twisty infield and abrasive Shanghai in its stride, successive generations of the MICHELIN Pilot Sport have enabled the FIA WEC’s sophisticated prototypes to run multi-stint strategies with no detriment to performance.
Former Formula 1 star Jenson Button even succeeded in posting a quintuple stint at Le Mans (750 kilometers, equivalent to more than two F1 grands prix) on a single set of tires in 2018!
In the course of the past 10 years, Michelin has delivered winning performance in the LMGTE Pro category, too, harvesting a total of 73 wins in association with Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Ford and Corvette. Although the now-discontinued class always allowed competition between tire brands, all the makes involved chose to race exclusively on Michelin rubber these past five seasons, a clear pointer to their confidence in the brand.
Michelin has always seen endurance racing as an accelerator for innovations that favor sustainability. The discipline has long helped it to sign off new technologies in a fiercely competitive arena ahead of their availability to ordinary motorists around the world. Indeed, the rubber compounds, sustainable materials, ultra-fast development-times permitted by digital modeling and advanced simulation processes employed in motor racing often go on to benefit the automobile industry in general.
In 2023, a new era of endurance racing is poised to begin for Michelin, starting with the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, a century after the firm’s first victory in the famous French race with the Chenard et Walcker Sport of Lagache/Léonard, in 1923.
In addition to this landmark occasion, next season will also see a long list of prestigious carmakers join the Hypercar class to which Michelin is the exclusive supplier. Porsche, Ferrari and Cadillac will effectively race alongside Toyota, Glickenhaus and Peugeot at the sharp end in 2023, while BMW, Lamborghini, Alpine and others are set to join the fray in the near future. This expansion promises to be huge challenge for Michelin which will have the task of supplying all these teams with identical Pilot Sports.
Another eagerly-awaited development in the world of endurance racing is the introduction of fuel-cell technology, and Groupe Michelin is actively involved in this area through the Mission H24 project which seeks to see a hydrogen-fueled prototype race at Le Mans in 2025.
Equipped with Michelin tires containing 53 percent recycled, biosourced or renewable sustainable materials, Mission H24’s car incorporates a fuel-cell developed by Michelin subsidiary Symbio and made its competitive debut in 2022.
After starring turbo power, diesel technology and, more recently, hybrid power, endurance racing is lining up to stand out as a pioneer in field of world-class zero-emissions racing, and Michelin has every intention of playing a major role in this shift towards increasingly sustainable motorsport.