Since this season, the World Endurance Championship welcomes a new category called Hypercar. It features less efficient prototypes than the LMP1s of last year, but allows you to race for less, with simpler technical regulations. For the moment, only three teams are entered: Toyota, Glickenhaus and Alpine. But Peugeot, Porsche, Audi, Ferrari and maybe others will soon arrive.
For this new category, equipped exclusively by Michelin, we had to create new tires, in a fairly short period of time and in the midst of a health crisis. Michelin then tackled the subject only by running its computers. His new “Endurance” tires are the first to have been designed entirely on a simulator, with and without pilot, and in the absence of vehicle, physical or conceptual. Thanks to the power of the development and simulation systems of the Auvergne manufacturer, but also to the expertise of its engineers, everything was done very quickly and quite naturally.
This work is all the more daring, as the dimensions dedicated to the Le Mans Hypercar category are both new. The Toyota GR010 Hybrid use tires size 31 / 71-18 at the front and rear, while other cars use new sizes in the world of Endurance: 29 / 71-18 at the front, and 34 / 71-18 at the rear. This difference is explained by the differences in mass distribution between front and rear, depending on the on-board technology. As a reminder, the Toyota GR010 Hybrid are the only ones to use an electrified system, in addition to its thermal block.
=> The secrets of the Toyota GR010
For the design of its new compounds, Michelin has moved from an iterative approach combining experience, simulation, machines and on-track vehicle tests, to a 100% virtual design approach. A first in the world of motorsport, and which could give rise to similar experiences for the development of series tires.
“It’s a new way of working and looking at the development of a tire,” says Pierre Alves, Michelin’s Endurance manager. Until now, of course, we started on a computer, but then we did tests on the track to make the final adjustments. Then the Hypercar regulations arrived at the time of the first containment, and we thought it was time to try what we had already thought about, but never started. We had never done that, but everything worked perfectly! “
First tests with Toyota
When the Japanese manufacturer has decided to organize a 30-hour racing simulation, a few weeks ago, he obviously needed tires… “We arrived at Paul Ricard with our tires in our trucks, without ever having seen the car on which they were going to be mounted,” continues Pierre Alvès. We were not far behind, especially as Toyota was also starting its test program. However, it turned out that we supplied the right tires right away, that the cars were able to reach their performance window very quickly. We received congratulations from Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s technical director, and that reassured us. We did everything right the first time, and that’s a huge satisfaction for us. “
The rest, we know it, or almost: all the players in the championship met on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit at the beginning of last week, for two days of prologue. Then free practice on Thursday, qualifying on Friday and the race on Saturday set the tone for the start of the season. Between the first laps of the wheel and pole position, achieved by a Toyota, there was a gap of 4 seconds. Sign that the tests were conclusive.
However, if the technical regulations for cars are fixed for five years, this is not the case with the tire. “After the tests with Toyota, we just made a small balance adjustment between front and rear but we could have gone like that”, concludes Pierre Alves. “But we already know that we introduce evolutions for the 2022 season because current cars will progress and other brands will arrive. In addition, it is impossible to have the same tires for five years. Then, we think we will make changes every two years. Today, the WEC includes six races on circuits that we know. Tomorrow, we don’t know where we will go and to develop a tire, we have to look at where it will run, document the specificities of each location during the season in order to have an overview. It is important because it conditions all the development ”
Observations and programming that computers do not yet know how to do in place of humans. Well, not yet …
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