Racing in the rain tech

July 9, 2015

Racing in the rain tech

July 9, 2015

wet_tiresAs consumers drive day or night, rain or shine, endurance sports car racing with production based cars is in many ways the most relevant form of competition for many manufacturers.

Michelin engineers believe that providing optimum wet handling, braking and driving traction in racing conditions is one of the most direct paths to delivering exceptional performance in wet conditions for “normal” consumer tires.

watkins_glen_racegal_june28_15_8The same principles apply for the motorsports case and the street case. The required level of performance – and the risks – are amplified when on the race track while operating a car at its absolute limit. The technology developed to harness a race car in wet conditions (tread pattern, tread compound, inflated tire shape, internal architecture) becomes a compelling attribute when applied to street tires.

Each tire maker in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is required to submit a single wet tire tread type (tread design, compound, etc.) to the sanctioning body International Motor Sports Association in advance of each race.

For Michelin, that wet tire design is the result of an extensive product research project called “Hydro-plus-plus-plus.”

“The objective was to determine the maximum possible level of hydroplaning resistance with the minimum level of void or empty space in the tread design,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsports for Michelin North America.

“By being able to achieve both the necessary level of hydroplaning resistance and having a low void tread design we are able to get more rubber down on the road.

“That helps overall handling in the wet and increases grip. And since we have more rubber in contact with the track surface we can also extend the tread life. More ‘wearable mass’ means longer tire life in race conditions or in normal street use.”

Yet, in the tradition of Apple’s Steve Jobs, the Michelin technology does not stop there. Michelin also offers its technical partner factory linked teams from Corvette Racing, Porsche North America, BMW Team RLL and Risi Competizione Ferrari, one more thing.

Michelin has developed a traditional appearing slick tire that is specifically designed to optimize performance in cool/damp and drying track conditions.

The tire has no grooves or sipes. It is truly a slick tire and does not look like any traditional wet tire.

Here is how it works: Using special compounding techniques developed by Michelin engineers and chemists in Nordic climates such as those found in Norway, Sweden and Finland, Michelin created a tire that quickly heats up into its optimal temperature range. The quickly-warming tire drives rapid evaporation of the moisture trapped in the contact patch.

watkins_glen_racegal_june28_15_12In addition, the tire’s unique crown shape also helps to displace any remaining surface moisture in the rolling path of the tire and thus maximizes the amount of rubber in contact with the track surface.

Finally, the tread compound itself is conceived to have a high affinity for moisture and develops tremendous grip in damp conditions.

In contrast, traditional full wet tires typically take considerable time to reach proper operating temperatures and their tread voids – the areas with no rubber – provide no grip. The reduced surface rubber means that the remaining rubber carries a greater load and thus wears quickly on a drying track surface.

With additional rubber in contact with the track surface, the new MICHELIN® tire provides increased grip and spreads the load over a much greater surface in comparison to the traditional full wet tire, thus reducing wear.

“Our teams often find that they can not only improve lap times but that they can extend their run to meet their fuel window,” said Baker.

Michelin has successfully deployed the “cool, damp/dry slick” in FIA World Endurance Championship competition, including the 24 Hour of Le Mans over the past three seasons.

“We started with the big LM P1 prototypes and have now migrated the technology to our GT partners,” said Baker.

“We have made the new technology available to our TUDOR Championship GTLM teams this season and they are now taking advantage of it when the appropriate conditions arise.

“Our current Pilot® Sport A/S 3 and Premier® All-Season consumer tires include some elements from both of these technologies.

“Real people and families drive millions of miles in the rain and on wet roads every week. The tread compounding approach for both these premium tire lines takes its cues from the ‘cool/damp’ slick and for the Premier A/S in particular, combined with truly breakthrough features such as ‘hidden tread grooves’ that are revealed as the tire wears. This new tire delivers a key promise for consumers.

“We call it ‘Safe When New, Safe When Worn’. At Michelin Motorsports, we are very proud of this particular ‘Track2Street’ connection.”

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