Le Mans is the focus. Michelin is the tire choice. Michelin, the world's leading tire manufacturer, announced today it will be the first major technical partner to support the radical Project 56 DeltaWing prototype car in the 2012 running of the world's greatest endurance race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Michelin has developed a tire solution that pushes the performance envelope and matches the innovative DeltaWing strategy to reduce by half the weight, power, aerodynamic drag, and fuel and tire usage of a Le Mans prototype race car - while delivering the same speed and performance. The Michelin tire sizes for the DeltaWing project are: 10/58-15 (front) and 31/62-15 (rear)
Tires are a critical part of the DeltaWing design and Michelin relied heavily on its own history of winning endurance races while developing these tires. The four-wheeled DeltaWing features a virtual three-point layout with narrow front track, wide rear track and significantly reduced aerodynamic drag. With this unique chassis layout, the tire solution presented distinct challenges.
"The DeltaWing presents exciting new territory for Michelin to explore," said Nick Shorrock, director of competition, Michelin. "Reducing energy consumption and materials - while maintaining, or even enhancing performance - is especially relevant in meeting the needs of consumers worldwide. Project 56 takes fresh ideas and puts them into a dramatic new package and we look forward to these challenges and opportunities," said Shorrock.
During the development process, Michelin engineers worked side-by-side with the DeltaWing team in order to understand the speed, load and stresses that the tires might experience.
"Michelin is the clear technical and environmental leader in motorsports in the international marketplace," said Highcroft Racing team owner and DeltaWing leader Duncan Dayton. "Michelin and its technical partner teams have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the past 14 consecutive years, so everyone involved in the program is tremendously excited to have Michelin on-board," said Dayton.
"The announcement of the DeltaWing project at Le Mans this year drew enormous interest around the world - and not just from race fans," said Shorrock. "The car is very different. People look at this car and say 'How will it turn?' and they recognize that there are some very interesting ideas at work. We look forward to being part of the answers."
Michelin has significantly extended the wear rate of its tires and reduced the number of tires used by its technical partner teams at Le Mans by more than 20 percent in the past three years. Michelin also has extensive experience in running multiple stints- two, three, four or even five - on the same set of tires in endurance racing.
"Michelin has logged hundreds of thousands of miles at Le Mans working with a wide array of different cars in varied conditions. The 2011 Le Mans winning Audi R18 diesel prototype was able to run five full stints - or 55 laps (454 miles) - on just one set of Michelin tires during the 2011 race," said Dayton. "No one can match that kind of tire performance."
Designed by former Lola Cars chief designer Ben Bowlby, the DeltaWing car is currently being constructed by racing legend Dan Gurney at the All American Racers facilities in Santa Ana, Calif. On-track testing is expected to begin late this year.
The "56th entry" at Le Mans is a special invitation extended by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the organizers of the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race, to encourage innovation and the introduction of new technologies. The 56th entry may race outside the standard technical classifications.
The 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be June 16-17, 2012, at the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, approximately 90 miles southwest of Paris.