We’re all used to corporate sponsors being ubiquitous in sports and events. Often, the sponsorship associations are strictly a promotional exercise without any real connection, purpose, or value.
Not so when it comes to Michelin and its involvement in the IMSA (International Motor Sport Association) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Michelin’s involvement in IMSA racing directly informs the ongoing development of its renowned performance street tires.
In both the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and WeatherTech Championship, Michelin tires are used across the various racing classes. That means thousands of Michelin tires are destroyed each season, and with each used tire, feedback and data help to inform the next generations of performance tires engineered for driving enthusiasts.
How is street performance tire technology advanced through racing? Racing is a testbed for:
Compound Composition and Experimentation
It’s typically the tire tread design that draws the eye, but the underlying composition of that outer tread layer is what really defines the tire’s performance and purpose.
The balance and characteristics of the tire compound define grip, durability, wear qualities, and more. Michelin can fine-tune and adjust the compound to achieve specific goals, like high grip for a shorter stint, or a hardened tire compound designed to last hours.
With this experimentation comes data and knowledge that can be directly applied to achieve optimum compound compositions and performance balances for street tires.
The various classes in IMSA racing put stresses on tires that won’t be approached during normal street driving.
Construction concepts that create a race tire that lasts dozens of laps can translate to thousands of hard miles fitted to performance road cars.
Increasing Maximum Traction
Of course, maximum grip is key in sports car racing. More grip equals superior braking, cornering, and overall handling, and that means better lap times. As IMSA’s sports cars have become increasingly powerful and capable, Michelin racing tires have developed accordingly, and those traction technologies have made their way into the performance street tire segment.
Michelin’s latest generation performance tires are fitted to some of the most extreme and overpowered exotic cars on the planet. These types of applications would be guesswork without racing.
(The Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 was fitted to the Bugatti Chiron when it broke the 300-mph barrier in 2019.)
Traction in Wet Conditions
Wet asphalt is never slicker than on a racetrack. Standing water on “rubbered in” tarmac creates ice-like driving conditions.
If the combination of tread and compound characteristics works on a wet racetrack while being pushed by professional drivers, those technologies will certainly translate to superior safety on the street in rainy weather.
Few brands are as universally admired for their performance products as Michelin, and the renowned Pilot Sport line of tires has a direct lineage to IMSA racing.
The Pilot Sport Cup 2 is closest to its motorsports roots. A dual-purpose, street/track tire, the Cup 2 has become a go-to tire among premium sportscar and exotic car manufacturers. It’s capable of a daily commute or a Nurburgring Nordschleife lap time, you name it.
The Cup 2 utilizes an endurance racing compound direct from Porsche racing slicks in the outer tread.
Michelin is leading the way in the Ultra-High Performance Street tire category as well with the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. “Born from endurance racing,” according to Michelin, the 4S has become an almost default tire for driving enthusiasts of all varieties.
Check out Michelin tires in IMSA racing action, and get a glimpse of where performance tire technology is headed at the famed 12 Hours of Sebring on March 21, 2020.