DAYTONA, Fla. January 25, 2017 - Heading into the opening race of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the GTLM class BMW, Chevrolet Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, and Porsche faced two important decisions in the only class featuring Open-tire competition.
The first decision was relatively easy, choosing their tire technical partner. “We are pleased that BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford, and Porsche have once again chosen Michelin as their technical partner,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.
But for 2017, officials of the sanctioning International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) added a new step. Each manufacturer entered in GTLM class was required to choose the specific Michelin cool and medium temperature range tire options their GTLM cars will use for the entire 2017 season.
The idea was to help IMSA maintain a consistent Balance of Performance throughout the season and to eliminate the introduction of any mid-season tire updates.
IMSA and Michelin held a test in late October at Road Atlanta. There, each GTLM manufacturer could test the full range of Michelin “cool” and “medium” temperature GTLM tire options. All of the teams will use the same Michelin hot temperature and wet tire options.
After the test, GTLM manufacturers had to quickly analyze the data and advise IMSA of their final choices. “The teams all had extensive data from the 10 Hour race at Road Atlanta a few weeks earlier so they found it interesting to experiment and assess all the different options at the test,” said Baker.
The BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, Risi Competizione Ferrari, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, and Porsche Racing teams can use both their designated Michelin cool temperature and medium temperature tires or mix and match them with the hot temperature tires. However, they are locked in on their respective cool and medium options for the entire season and will dial in their cars to match their selections which remain confidential.
An Additional Factor:
“The FIA-World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, begins its season a few months later than IMSA,” said Baker. “In the past we offered our IMSA teams the opportunity to use the latest WEC tires when they became available. However, the 2017 WEC rules allow teams only four sets of tires in their standard six-hour races, meaning teams must double-stint tires at least twice on even the hottest and most abrasive track surfaces, so the Michelin tire development for WEC is different from IMSA competition where teams change tires nearly every stint.”
Any IMSA GTLM teams headed to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June will have the opportunity to test the 2017 Michelin WEC/Le Mans tires later this spring, but those tires will not be eligible for 2017 IMSA competition. The IMSA-based Ford CGR and Risi Competizione teams swept the corresponding GTE-Pro class podium at Le Mans in 2016 with Michelin.
· Different pit rules in WEC and at Le Mans see the 2017 WEC Michelin tires maximize performance over multiple stints. IMSA rules permit tire changes during refueling, while WEC pit rules do not.
· Ford, Ferrari and Porsche all have GTE-Pro teams entered in the FIA-WEC Series.
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