Michelin Watkins Glen preview

June 26, 2018

Michelin Watkins Glen preview

June 26, 2018


Michelin and its technical partner GT Le Mans class teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship arrive at Watkins Glen for this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen with plenty of ice, sunscreen, and a Michelin “high temperature range” (hard) tire solution expected to be in high demand.

“With its long straightaways, high-load corners, elevation changes and braking zones, Watkins Glen is one of the most technically challenging circuits for tires,” said Ken Payne, technical director motorsport, Michelin North America.

“When you add in the forecast for ambient temperatures in the high 90 degrees, lots of direct sunshine and a fairly recently repaved (2016) track surface, which retains considerable heat, our Michelin “hot” temperature range tires will likely be the primary tire choice for our GTLM teams.”

Expect the Unexpected

However in the fiercely competitive world of the only IMSA class permitting open tire competition, the factory backed BMW Team RLL, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Corvette Racing, and Porsche GT Teams have all chosen Michelin as their respective tire technical partner and the standard approach is not always the path taken.

“I will not be surprised to see GTLM teams try a medium or even a cool temperature range set of tires to start the race or perhaps to drop back down a temperature range for a short late stint,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsports, Michelin North America.

Baker recently described the level of race craft and race strategies by the factory GTLM teams as “diabolically brilliant in concept and fearless in execution.”

The Watkins Glen Anomaly

Watkins Glen is an anomaly. At six hours, it is a longer race than the standard WeatherTech Championship races, but unlike the other three North American Endurance Championship (NAEC) races, the entire event is run in daylight. As a result, track temperature changes are nominal and are still near their peak at the finish.

“At the other three North American Endurance Championship races held at ­Daytona, Sebring and Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, you have the change from daylight to darkness which drops the track temperatures, sometimes fairly dramatically. That doesn’t happen at Watkins Glen,” said Payne.

“The key is matching the tire operating temperature to the track temperature and tire load characteristics of the circuit.”

Michelin embeds a tire engineer with each of its GTLM teams to assist in tire selection and optimization for demanding scenarios such as this.

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