Michelin SuperSebring Preview
Michelin SuperSebring Preview
Nightly vigil for Michelin at the eve of SuperSebring
“SuperSebring.” This is how the Endurance Race taking place at Sebring International Raceway March 13th through 16th, 2019 was christened. Lining up 137 cars (338 pilots!), it will be the greatest Motorsports event ever supported by the French tire manufacturer Michelin.
Two major races will roll in back-to-back on the 3.74-mile-long track of a former military airbase in at the heart of Florida: the 1000 Miles of Sebring (part of the FIA World Endurance Championship, and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, a part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“With more than 20 auto manufacturers represented on the track this weekend, the challenge is huge, and Michelin will undertake it with dedication and humility,” states Michelin Motorsports director Matthieu Bonardel. “Our trackside support teams are 100 percent focused on this great logistical and coordination effort. They deploy a unique combination of experience, rigor and passion.”
Laser-sharp Technical support
Between the FIA WEC and IMSA, Michelin is supporting the competing teams with 55 engineers and technicians mastering race tire technology. They will use their expertise at the device of lineups in four series and 12 different categories (FIA WEC – 31 cars, IMSA WeatherTech – 38 cars, IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge – 43 cars, IMSA Prototype Challenge – 25 cars). They will be stationed in three racetrack support trailers specifically designed for this.
“Beyond assisting our partners in their race strategy, our technical team will be gathering crucial information and data,” highlights Matthieu Bonardel. “Lessons learned on the track during Super Sebring will be precious for the design of our next generation Michelin tires, on race tracks as well as regular road-use. With such a wide span of cars we can perform extremely sharp analysis. Most of our partners having chosen Michelin as original equipment for their production models, the monitoring conducted in Sebring will allow us to strengthen our knowledge and better serve the needs of car manufacturers for their customers.”
According to Michelin Motorsport estimates, more than 100,000 miles will be run by participants of the FIA World Endurance, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar, IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge, and IMSA Prototype Challenge.
Largest ever Motorsports event for Michelin
Michelin will supply Sebring with 16,000 tires. All of which will be stored and mounted in the paddocks. Although it has only rained once in the last 20 editions of the 12 Hours of Sebring, Michelin is fully stocked with 5,800 wet tires.
Michelin’s partners will obviously use only a part of this supply, choosing between different rubber compounds appropriate to the racetrack conditions, as well as wet tires in case of rain.
Twenty-one trailers will transport the IMSA tires, as well as nine 40-foot maritime containers coming from overseas. Knowing that in the 2018 edition of Sebring, Michelin supplied only five teams and nine GT-LeMans cars for a total of 1,500 tires, makes one realize the phenomenal undertaking this year’s edition is.
For the sake of comparison, the infamous “24 Hours of Le Mans” 2018 edition – that Michelin won for the 21st year in a row – required a supply of only 8,000 tires.
All of MICHELIN® Pilot® slick tires are equipped with RFID chips allowing technical monitoring. In addition to portable scanners, fixed mounted stations will be placed at exits of both the IMSA and WEC pit-lanes in order to gather information from both sides of the cars simultaneously.
Being the official and exclusive supplier of three IMSA categories, the chosen partner of all GT-Le Mans teams and supplier of 31 of 34 FIA WEC teams, Michelin will have extensive workspace for mounting, balancing and monitoring of tires. The French manufacturer will build 27,000 square feet of workshops of which 24,000 is under a tent on the IMSA WeatherTech paddock.
Jackson Motorsports, longtime partner of Michelin will ensure stock-keeping, mounting, balancing and supplying operation to the race teams for over 30 different models of tires.
With cars on track for extended timeslots, Super Sebring will be a herculean undertaking for Michelin teams, practically working around the clock for an uninterrupted four days.
Michelin and Sebring, faithful to the legacy
Michelin and Sebring have a privileged relationship on the 12 Hours of Sebring with 15 consecutive wins (1999 through 2013), prior to right before the merger that gave birth to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
As official partner of Sebring International Raceway, Michelin sponsors the pathway overarching the track allowing spectators to access the paddocks. Along with Audi, Chevrolet Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche, Michelin are the only five manufacturers honored at the Sebring Hall of Fame.
“Michelin had been seeking to increase their presence in the IMSA championship since the merger of Grand-Am and American Le Mans Series,” indicated Chris Baker, director of Michelin Motorsports North America. “We have managed to become official supplier of IMSA starting 2019 and are now at the heart of the greatest events in all history of Michelin Motorsports. During Super Sebring, North American Michelin personnel will work hand in hand with our colleagues at FIA WEC to offer the best performances to our pilots and teams, which will ensure the best memories for our Endurance Racing enthusiasts.”
Perfectly continuing the relationship between Sebring and Michelin, this competition weekend will also encompass a second round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup – the “race within the race” of the WeatherTech Championship – as well as the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge.
Several teams of both series also ran with Michelin in Sebring last fall, during the first edition of the MICHELIN IMSA SportsCar Encore showcasing 20 cars in LM P3, GT4 and TCR classes during a four-hour race.
From a technical standpoint, Sebring is a track that puts specific stress on the tires. Its rippled sloped surface creates continuous load variations on the tires, while the dual-composition of its coating makes grip tack vary widely across its course. For example, half of the asphalt section can rapidly reach 86°F when exposed to the Floridian sunlight, while the concrete part from the former airbase stays mild. In the event of rain, the water–exhaust capabilities of the track are limited, making the ride challenging.