Michelin & Corvette – from nowhere to everywhere

April 25, 2014

Michelin & Corvette – from nowhere to everywhere

April 25, 2014

vette_4_25_14What was once a mile-wide gap has disappeared and become a bridge as Corvette Racing and Michelin went from strangers to exclusive relationships and technical partnerships on both track and street in the past decade.

Despite strong motorsport heritage and long records of great success, Corvette and Michelin were on opposite sides of the paddock at the races and on the street.

Corvette factory teams had never raced with Michelin and no new Corvette had ever rolled off the line wearing a Michelin fitment.

Corvette post race - croppedThat changed after the 2003 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans when a Michelin-fitted Ferrari beat the defending champions Corvette Racing to the top spot of the GT class podium by a stunning 10-lap, 85-mile margin.

By season’s end, the Corvette Racing team was determined to become a Michelin technical partner.

“That first big test at Sebring with Michelin opened a lot of eyes,” said Ron Fellows, then the Corvette Racing factory team lead driver.

“We not only went three seconds a lap faster, the MICHELIN® tires hooked up so much quicker on acceleration that it initially created some driveline issues for us, which was a good thing!”

The Corvette Racing team immediately changed to MICHELIN tires and went on to reclaim its title at Le Mans and capture the 2004 American Le Mans Series championship.

As key insiders at General Motors became increasingly aware of the MICHELIN tire technology and the significant role it played in Corvette Racing’s renewed success, an opportunity opened for Michelin to compete and win the fitment on the 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, the fastest, most powerful production car ever produced by GM.

That led to the next stage. With the Corvette Racing team and the Corvette ZR1 development team both working in close collaboration with Michelin, the relationship soon became a virtuous circle or flywheel with the racing team at the hub.

Just as Corvette Racing draws upon the General Motors technical experts in powertrain, chassis, suspension, electronics and aerodynamics, Michelin, the global leader in tire technology, embeds a tire engineer with each of its Le Mans technical partner teams to capture extensive data and insights on tire and chassis performance as well as subjective feedback from drivers and team engineers.

With top GM and Corvette Racing team engineers, championship winning drivers and aggressive testing, Michelin gains deep insights into the technical and cultural side of Corvette and feeds it all into the Michelin technical centers for use in developing new tires for both Corvette Racing and production vehicles.

Through the first 100+ races of the technical partnership with Michelin, Corvette Racing captured five GT class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and 60 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) class wins, including six victories in the Twelve Hours of Sebring and five at Petit Le Mans. Those wins led to seven sets of ALMS driver, team, and manufacturer championships, including 2012 and 2013.

One of the keys to the Corvette – Michelin technical partnership is that the collaboration does not stop at the pit gate.

In fact, the lead Michelin race tire engineer with Corvette Racing, Lee Willard, is also the lead development engineer for the Michelin ultra-high performance tires for Corvette street vehicles – you can’t have a tighter circle for feedback than that.

As the collaboration continues, Michelin engineers can develop increasingly specific tires to meet the demands for each subsequent Corvette.

Michelin has been honored to develop the MICHELIN® Pilot® Sport PS2 ZP tire for the 2009 Corvette ZR1, the MICHELIN® Pilot® Sport Cup ZP, a street-legal, track-ready tire, for the 2011 Corvette Z06 and ZR1 with optional handling packages.

Today, every new C7 Corvette rolls off the line in Bowling Green fitted exclusively with MICHELIN® Pilot® Super Sport® ZP tire combinations for the 2014 Corvette Stingray and 2014 Corvette Stingray with Z51 performance package and the Z06.

“This is a truly historic partnership and it is pretty amazing to think about how the Michelin relationship with Corvette has grown,” said Chris Baker, motorsports director for Michelin North America.

“When two companies share a passion for innovation, engineering excellence and constantly improving technology, great things happen for racers on the track and consumers on the street.”

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