IMSA Sports Car Racing-the Test Track for Michelin Tires

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Regular readers of The Lasco Press know our passion for all things automotive. Our Sports Editor, Steve Sweitzer, covers the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series each week. We are located in the Detroit, Flint, and Lansing manufacturing triangle and car folks represent a large portion of our readership. Steve ventured into the world of IMSA Sports Car Racing this past weekend. Far different from his NASCAR beat, still Steve learned some cool stuff. We’ll let him tell the story.

I know and love NASCAR, bump and run, door handle to door handle racing. However, those boys go to a few tracks where they make right turns. Racing is racing, right? So when I received an invitation, courtesy of Michelin Tires, to attend the IMSA event this past weekend at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course I was all-in. Hey, the Xfinity guys race there so it’s got to be an awesome place.

Let me admit right up front, IMSA is a far different animal than stock cars running around an oval track. NASCAR has 3 premier series, the Cup Series sponsored by Monster Energy, the Xfinity Series (tier 2), and the Camping World Truck Series (tier 3).

Doug Brown / Michelin Host

IMSA has more classes than I can remember and several different levels of cars race on the track at the same time. Fortunately, I had a guide and instructor. Michelin Hospitality Host Doug Brown proved to be an expert on all things IMSA, as well as a tire guru. As the guest of Michelin, we learned their tires are used exclusively on the GT LeMans Series cars. The type of machines that compete at the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, and the 24 Hours of LeMans.

A Ford GT on-track at Mid-Ohio (Lasco Press Photo)
Kohr Motorsports Mustang (Lasco Press Photo)

That is until next year when Michelin will provide tires for all IMSA Series. I’m going to have to study up for that. Maybe hire Doug as my personal tutor.

Michelin Hospitality

In addition to making tires, Michelin is also known for publishing its annual Michelin Guides rating restaurants and hotels throughout Europe. The first Guide was published in France, in 1900. “In order to help motorists develop their trips – thereby boosting car sales and in turn, tyre purchases – the Michelin brothers produced a small guide filled with handy information for travellers, such as maps, information on how to change a tyre, where to fill up on petrol, and wonderfully – for the traveller in search of respite from the adventures of the day – a listing of places to eat or take shelter for the night.”

In 2005 Michelin published its first American Guide. Ratings for establishments are not determined by a single visit. Michelin food experts visit restaurants on multiple occasions, always incognito. Sampling everything on the menu before issuing a rating. From 5-star hotels to 3-star restaurants Michelin knows hospitality. They proved that in the manner we were hosted on our trip. Accommodations at the Ritz-Charlton in Cleveland. Dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse, transportation to the track via motorcoach. Trackside viewing opposite the track’s flag stand and pit road. First Class all the way.

At The Track

Michelin hosts transported us to various activities during our visits to the track.

A hot-lap ride around the race course with a professional driver awed participants.

A gid-walk pre-race gave us the opportunity to spot driver’s, team owners, crews, and celebrities. As well as viewing the cars prepped to take on the race track.

A tour of Michelin Motorsports’ trackside tire station and tech facility offered an insight into Michelin’s live race testing of tires and the innovations they contain.

 

Of course, we also got to meet the Michelin Man.

Lasco Press Photo

Michelin Tires

We learned some fascinating facts about Michelin Tires. Their on-track performance monitoring. How racing produces innovations that are incorporated into tires built for consumer use. And the level of significance Michelin places on performance and safety in all phases of a tire’s consumable life.

Race Tires

Michelin Tires used in the GT LeMans Series are leased to the teams. The technology is proprietary and not shared with anyone. Every tire contains a bar-code and it’s recorded during distribution to the teams. Every tire is checked back in at the end of the event before anyone goes home.

If a tire is punctured and comes apart on the track. Michelin technicians walk the track after the race to pick any pieces that fly off. Every bit of the tire tells a story. One that is confidential and closely guarded, even from the race teams themselves.

Each race team is assigned their own Michelin Tire technician to work with them through the course of the race. They keep data on starting tire pressures, tread wear, camber/caster settings and other pertinent information that tells a story about what the tire experienced during the event.

All information is shared with Michelin and it’s kept separate from information shared with the individual teams.

IMSA Class Tire Rules

Next year when Michelin supplies tires for the entire IMSA series they will bring 3 different types of tires to the track. The highly proprietary tire now in use will still be issued to the GT LeMans teams. A mid-propriety tire for the classes which require open data about specific tire performance.

Maybe most interesting is that some classes require the use of a tire that can be purchased off the shelf at local retailers. That speaks volumes to the filter down effect of what Michelin engineers learn at the track and incorporate in the tires on your personal vehicle.

Michelin Passenger Car Tires

Race car tires have to perform as good on the last lap of the race as the first. A driver racing 135 mph down the backstretch needs to know the car will stop consistently every time he slows for the 25 mph hairpin turn at the bottom of the hill.

When you think about it, isn’t that what you want the tires on your passenger car to do. the government requires tire manufacturers to publish certain specifications about their tires you buy new off the shelf. There are currently no performance standards for used tires.

What We Learned

Most drivers today base their tire purchase decisions on factors like cost and mileage warranty. If they do any research on performance, the majority of reviews and ratings available focus on how new tires perform. THAT’S A PROBLEM. Check out this information page on “The Truth About Tires.” It will open your eyes to facts most drivers are unaware of.

Michelin is a Big Part of Ford’s Success in Sports Car Racing

Ford fans follow this Michelin/Ford link for brand specific racing news. If you would like more information about Michelin Tires for your personal car stop by Lasco Ford in Fenton and talk to a tire specialist. Or shop online at LascoFord.com take advantage of Ford Motor Company’s Tire Price Match program. Get a great tire at a great price.

Event Pictures

Part of the fun of attending a live racing event is capturing the memories that can live forever. Display them your walls, the home screen of your computer, or in an album you share digitally or in print. Here are some great pictures from the weekend at Mid-Ohio.

Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo
Lasco Press Photo

 

Action Images Mid-Ohio

Click on the image to animate the action.

 

 

 

 

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines. He is also a freelance technical writer and accomplished photographer. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve at thelascopress.com with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.