For the remained of the 2018/19 FIA World Endurance Championship, Michelin will be working with the LMP1 Privateer teams to create a new compound tyre in an attempt to bridge the pace gap to Toyota Gazoo Racing.
It is no secret that Toyota have the edge over the Privateer LMP1 teams this season, and the ACO, FIA and WEC have been doing what they can to reel the Japanese team in. Attempts to shift the Equivalence of Technology appeared to do little, so the championship has looked to the class’ tyre manufacturer to see what they can do.
New tyres are due to be provided for the Privateer teams in time for the 2019 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Jerome Mondain, Endurance Programme Manager for Michelin, has confidence that time can be found in developing a more suited tyre for the Privateer teams, but he was keen to state that he doubted the large gains needed to keep the Toyotas in range were possible from tyre development alone.
“The plan was to do what we call an analytical test to collect data with existing tyres and then work out the next step.” Mondain told Autosport. “We had to develop the tyres for the non-hybrid cars this season without much data and they have different stresses and needs than the tyres on the hybrid cars [the Toyotas].
“The specification of the tyres was frozen before two of the cars [the Rebellion R-13 and the Gibson-powered version of the BR Engineering BR1 run by DragonSpeed] had even run and the cars have also all moved forward during the season.”
Privateer teams have been complaining to Michelin with problems of getting the front tyres up to temperature.
Development of the tyres was due to start at last year’s 6 Hours of Shanghai, but the heavy rainfall that affected practice sessions saw Michelin’s tyre test cancelled and plans to develop the Privateer’s tyres pushed back to the start of this year. The test at Shanghai had to be cancelled as it was only planned for dry-weather tyres.
“We don’t know yet what the next step is going to be – it will depend on when the cars are going to be available to test over the winter,” Mondain said, discussing the new development plan with Autosport.
Had the test been carried out as planned in Shanghai, the two-day official test on the weekend ahead of the 1,000 Miles of Sebring could have seen the roll out of a prototype Privateer tyre. This may, instead, become Michelin’s first chance to gather the needed data from the Privateers.
DragonSpeed have declined taking part in Michelin’s tyre development.