SEBRING, Fla. March 14, 2016 – When Michelin and its technical partner teams from BMW, Corvette, Ford, Ferrari, and Porsche begin practice and qualifying for Saturday's big Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring they will find a very different track than the one that they tested on just a few weeks ago.
While the dimensions of the bumpy 3.74 mile Sebring International Raceway circuit are unchanged, the early weather forecast calls for temperatures in the high 80s all week and an 80 percent chance of rain on Saturday for the second stop on the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Hot and humid weather will definitely impact the track grip levels and thus tire range choice.
Hot and Hotter:
“The forecast is for much higher temperatures than we saw at the test in February,” said Ken Payne, motorsports technical director for Michelin North America. “You always prefer to race in conditions similar to what you practiced and tested in, but different weather challenges are precisely why we have our engineers working with each of our technical partner teams.”
“We have both our MICHELIN ‘cool’ and ‘warm’ temperature tire options available for our technical partner teams who all compete in GTLM, the only open tire class,” said Payne. “Drivers and cars that are easy on tires will have an advantage in borderline transition temperature periods where the cooler option nears its range limits.”
Shining in the Wet:
Michelin teams are well equipped if rain does arrive. The two most recent IMSA events have been a showcase for Michelin technology. Porsche’s Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet shocked the field with an impressive overall race victory in the Petit Le Mans 2015 season finale at Road Atlanta. More recently, the Michelin GTLM teams again topped the Prototypes in practices and the two Porsche North America GTLM cars were the fastest qualifiers overall at the 2016 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
In dry conditions, the timing delta is expected to be 6-8 seconds per lap from the more powerful, lighter, more aerodynamic Prototypes to the slower production based GTLM class entries. In the wet however, Michelin teams have been as much as 2 to 3 seconds per lap quicker than the Prototypes in many wet conditions. The resulting shift in the timing delta of between 8 and 10 seconds per lap is extraordinary.
“The rain can make things very tricky here with puddles often forming on the straights,” said Payne. “Whether racing in perfect dry or treacherous wet conditions, what we learn racing here at Sebring goes into providing our customers the total tire performance required no matter what real world conditions they encounter.”