Michelin battling ‘production capacity’ challenges – Sportscar365

Photo: Jose Bispo

The GTE-Am cars are running on older tire specification at the Fuji 6 Hours this weekend as Michelin looks to address “production capacity” issues, according to the French supplier’s endurance racing manager.

Michelin has requested to use its 2021 GTE-Am tires at this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship round due to a “significant disturbance” at its production plants.

It is the second time this season that Michelin has turned to 2021-spec rubber, after doing so for the Sebring 1000 Miles due to raw material supply issues related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

New tire specifications were introduced this year for the Ferrari 488 GTE Evo, Porsche 911 RSR-19 and Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, which compete in the development-focused GTE-Pro class. Aston Martin Vantage GTEs in the Am category run on older specification tires.

“In March, just after the [Ukraine] the conflict started, we had a break with the carbon black suppliers, all the metal parts and so on,” Alves told Sportscar365.

“This stopped because they closed the border between Russia and Ukraine. But we found other sources. Since April we have not had any problem with raw materials. The problem is production capacity.

“The main difficulty is that the machines are at full capacity because we have a high demand, especially from Hypercar. The machines are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We are producing tires to be able to supply WEC and IMSA next season. WEC and the big championships are our priority”.

Raw material supply issues prompted Michelin to approach Sebring with a stock of older GTE-Am tires that it initially allocated to last season’s canceled 6 Hours of Fuji.

Michelin solved the problem by seeking out new suppliers, allowing it to offer the GTE-Am class the latest tire at Spa, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Monza.

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However, Alves explained that production limitations due to high overall racing and testing demand meant that Michelin restricted the 2022 GTE-Am product to competition only, with teams forced to use older tires for testing.

A similar approach has been taken by Michelin’s North American arm, announcing in May that it would prioritize tires for IMSA-sanctioned events.

“At one point, we said it wouldn’t be possible to respond positively to everyone,” Alves said. “We need to make sure that all the main categories have the tires to compete.

“We had enough tires to do Monza and we depended on the weather conditions at Le Mans and Monza to have enough tyres. [for Fuji].

“At Le Mans, we had a week of dry weather and very few cars retired from the race.

“After Le Mans, our stock was very low. That’s why we couldn’t use the leftovers from Le Mans to make Fuji. We wait for Monza, to see if it was a rainy weekend.

“Then we would have enough to bring Monza [slick] tires to Fuji by air shipment. But Monza was dry, so there was no [leftover] tires.

“That’s why we had to ask the FIA ​​and WEC to allow us to provide last year’s specifications at Fuji.”

Alves confirmed that Michelin will once again supply the GTE-Am field with this year’s tire specification at the Bahrain 8 Hours season finale in November.

“At the end of July and August we produce tires for the GTE cars for Bahrain,” he said.

“So, in Bahrain, everyone will use the 2022 tires. The container is already gone. They are in the sea.

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Michelin gives priority to the launch of GTP tires

There will be no GTE tire evolutions for next season as the GTE-Pro class is coming to an end, but Michelin is introducing a new WEC Hypercar product, as well as releasing tires for the wave of incoming GTP manufacturers at IMSA.

Alves explained that Michelin is concentrating on getting tires onto the IMSA GTP grid first, which means WEC Hypercar teams will need to be patient for theirs to arrive.

“We are developing a new specification for Hypercar and IMSA GTP next year,” he said.

“IMSA starts in December with the sanctioned test at Daytona, then the Roar and the Rolex 24 [in January]. So the first production is completely dedicated to IMSA.

“That is why we will not be able to supply the new specifications to Hypercar before January. But they will all be the same: no WEC team will be able to test the new specification before 2023.

“We’ll just do what we call ‘test tyres,’ testing compounds and casings. But the final tire does not yet exist. We have to start building a tire this week, to build a stock to supply next year.

“Demand is huge because we started from zero stock of slicks and wet. We are completely renewing the range for Hypercar. It’s going to be very challenging.”

daniel lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, which covers the FIA ​​World Endurance Championship, AWS-powered Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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