Michelin North America Inc. said it is developing breakthroughs in racing tire development both with its Michelin and BF Goodrich racing tires.
The company is working on an 18-inch rim diameter racing tire for the FIA Formula e designed with a tread pattern that can be used in dry or wet conditions (See related story on page 16).
The tire maker also plans to continue development of a methodology it debuted mid last year in which the tire designers custom-grooved the tire treads at the track to adapt to changing conditions.
Motorsports has yielded a better understanding of tire function and tire technology (materials, inflated shape, etc.) which has had a major impact on its consumer products, such as the Pilot Super Sport and Pilot Sport All Season 3 lines, said Chris Baker, motorsports director for MNA.
"There is something new coming that is generating more buzz than, frankly, anyone in the motorsports community could have expected," Baker said. "The new FIA Formula e championship will come to North America in 2015 (in Miami and in Los Angeles), but the global race season kicks off in September of 2014 in Beijing.
Meanwhile, he said Michelin's BFGoodrich brand "will increase its engagement in short (closed)-course off-road racing during 2014. This type of racing presents a very particular technical challenge for us in terms of off-road traction."
Last year during the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series, Michelin introduced a tire technology and at-track method¬ology that allowed the tire maker to custom-groove BFGoodrich slicks for its Pro-2 and Pro-4 teams on-site as a function of track and ambient conditions.
"This approach allowed us to adapt our tire solutions in close collaboration with our race team partners. We learned a lot via this approach and we will continue to develop the methodology throughout the 2014 racing season," Baker said.
Michelin is participating in several racing series this year, including:
• Dakar cross-country rally in South America;
• FIA World Rally Championship;
• The new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the result of the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Rolex Series. "The GT Le Mans class is the only 'open tire' class in this championship and we are heavily involved with our technical partners Corvette Racing, SRT/Viper, BMW Team RLL, Porsche Motorsport North America, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Aston Martin Racing," Baker said; and
• FIA World Endurance Championship.
"Top-level endurance racing, such as the TUDOR Championship and WEC, is an ideal fit for Michelin," he said. "We are constantly striving to provide long-wearing, low-energy-consumption, high-traction, terrific-driving tire solutions for everyone—not just racers."
He noted that Michelin has had a successful run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1998 and has increased the longevity of its race tires by a factor of three. "In fact, at Le Mans alone in the last three years, we've reduced our consumption of tires by fully 25 percent, all while going faster than we ever have before."
In North America, Michelin will race in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Canada by Michelin series while the BFGoodrich brand will race in:
• SCCA Pro Racing's Mazda MX-5 Cup;
• Best in the Desert series;
• SCORE International; and
• Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series.
North America is the only geographic zone in the world in which Group Michelin races at a high level with both its Michelin and BF Goodrich brands, according to Baker.
Michelin has adopted a three-pillar approach to its global motorsports strategy, and "each one of them may have a higher priority than the other two at any given time, simply as a function of the particular motorsports opportunity in front of us," he said.
• Pillar 1: Racing supports the brands to reinforce what they stand for.
• Pillar 2: Racing provides technology development and deployment. "We say that, for us, racing is our 'lab within the lab.'
"It is a technology-discovery eco¬system, enabling transfer to our consumer product offers for our Michelin and BFGoodrich brands," Baker said.
• Pillar 3: Racing operates as a small business that supports the main business of delivering better mobility.
"Globally, over the last two years, Group Michelin has consolidated its global motorsports organization into a more coherent effort that is well-aligned with the company's growth ambitions—and this includes not only the mature economies of Western Europe and North America, but also the Group's efforts in what are commonly referred to as the 'developing economies,' such as Asia, South America and Eastern Europe.
"We now have 'formal' motorsports arms in Europe, North America and in Asia and they are focused, on-mission and making progress," Baker added.