Tire manufacturers Michelin and Goodyear are preparing to ban tire heaters in the FIA World Endurance Championship from the 2023 season.
The ban has not been officially announced by series organizers FIA and ACO, but tire suppliers and teams have been working towards it for much of this year.
Sportscar365 believes the measure is being taken primarily because of the environmental impact of heating tires.
In the WEC and European Le Mans Series, tires for all cars are placed in a rack at the rear of the garage, connected to a heater, which pumps hot air out, increasing tire temperature and giving the driver more grip when starting their stint .
Pierre Alves, Michelin Motorsport’s endurance racing program manager, explained that the French company had to “rethink” the design of its hypercar tire to function at lower starting temperatures. Michelin also supplies GTE cars in the WEC.
“We currently have an established specification that we now use with a [free] Working window,” Alves told Sportscar365.
“Now we have to move the window towards the cold so the tires work faster. This is a different way of working because the housing has to be different.”
According to Alves, Michelin’s tests of next year’s updated hypercar tires have so far been conducted primarily through simulation.
Additionally, GTE testing with manufacturers dried up after the Le Mans 24 Hours in June, as Porsche and Ferrari shifted their focus to hypercar development programs.
“We didn’t have many opportunities because all the teams before Le Mans were focused on working for Le Mans,” said Alves.
“So the [Hypercar] The development process really started after Le Mans with the teams available for testing, namely Peugeot.
“Toyota didn’t test at all, so unfortunately we didn’t test with them.
“We did it when the tire was new and cold and did it at the test station. We never got proper terms, but that’s the way it is. We are working towards this and our simulation has shown that it is acceptable.
“To [that], it will be the management in the teams how they manage it. Because it’s a different way of thinking with the initial pressure, because it’s different than already having the standardized pressure when the tires are hot.”
LMP2 teams prepare on unmodified rubber
Goodyear, supplier to the LMP2 classes in WEC and ELMS, has been working on the scenario of a tire heater ban since April after discussing the matter with the FIA and ACO.
The American company’s European racing department has conducted and attended tests without tire warmers at several circuits including Estoril, Aragon, Portimao, Jerez and Silverstone.
Night driving took place in Aragon while non-professional drivers were involved in the process.
Several teams have tried the new scenario including JOTA, United Autosports, Team WRT, Algarve Pro Racing and Vector Sport.
Goodyear is not making any changes to its LMP2 tire and its endurance racing program manager, Mike McGregor, told Sportscar365 that it plans to continue “as is” next season.
“The only thing we can consider is the minimum pressure and maximum fall,” he said.
“We tested with a fairly broad scheme of drivers and teams to get different data inputs at different tracks to check energy rating and things like that.
“The most demanding track will be Spa. The nature of the track and the way it is fun [weather-wise] will be the biggest challenge for the drivers to get up to speed on the grip level.
“At the end of the day we try to support the FIA and ACO in what they are trying to do and find the best way forward.”
Driver mentality change required
McGregor explained that Goodyear initially considered having to make changes to its LMP2 tire for the ban because its Eagle F1 SuperSport product was designed to heat up, but the current model was pushed ahead.
“As long as the teams are reasonable in terms of setup, crash and other things, we won’t have a big drama with that,” he said.
“I think the biggest challenge for next year is for the riders to change their mentality about when they can push, how much they can push and not overrun the tyre.
“In all the tests we did, on average, the grip level was there after a few laps.
“The only thing that people might reconsider is how they exit the pit lane. Folks not necessarily going to an IMSA style but want a little more wheelspin to build that temperature.
“It’s going to be a driver mentality thing, the bigger challenge in the first year when people understand how to handle the tyres.”
The same approach applies to WEC GTE-Am teams, who use the same Michelin tires as this year, but without heaters.
GTE-Am is poised to be the only WEC class with mandatory bronze-rated drivers next season, considering that the LMP2 Pro-Am classification is set to be removed and focused on ELMS, where tire warmers will also disappear .
Alves echoed McGregor’s opinion that GTE-Am drivers need to adopt a “different mindset” about how to start their new tire stints.
“We could see on some circuits that there are some difficulties at the beginning of the first lap because the tires are hot but the pressure is not right,” he said.
“From the driver’s point of view there will be more tire management.
“We will accompany them: our technicians work very closely with the engineers and the drivers to explain what to do and what not to do with the tyres.”