Tyre innovations and technology

  • On average, how long does it take to get technical innovations from racetrack prototypes to standard production tyres?
    It all depends on the technology, but looking back at past developments shows that improvements made for the track are systematically transferred to road tyres. One example is the variable contact zone created by Michelin for Formula 1, then used widely in the Le Mans 24 Hours. This ensures the pressure and temperature are distributed evenly and consistently across the contact surface. Even if the shape of the contact area changes, the amount of rubber in contact with the ground remains the same.

    It took a year and a half to transfer this technology from the world of F1 and endurance racing to the road. The result is the MICHELIN Pilot Super Sport, a High Performance tyre that is hugely popular among supercar drivers.
  • What is rolling resistance, and what are the latest technological advances developed to counter this effect in a race setting?
    Rolling resistance is the effect of energy lost due to deformations in the tyre. It generates a force that counteracts the rolling of the tyre, and as a result, also the forward movement of the vehicle. On average, one fifth of the fuel burned goes to overcoming this resistance.

    Researchers have made advances in a range of areas to reduce this energy loss, including the architecture, rubber composition, and weight of the tyre. For more information, see our website “Everything you ever wanted to know about tyres
  • To what extent is the technology found in competition tyres replicated in tyres for the general public – particularly in terms of traditional off-road vehicles (4x4s)? Are the innovations, materials and processes exactly the same?
    Competition is a major focus of Michelin’s research and development work. We consider it the ultimate testing lab. Racing enables us to analyse the behaviour of tyres in the toughest conditions, so that we can get a full picture of how every element functions.

    In the World Rally Championship, the tread of the tyres and the closeness of the vehicles to on-the-road models (in terms of weight, power, etc.), means there is a lot of technological overlap with tyres sold to the general public. WRC testing means we can refine or approve treads with regards to their suitability for mass-market use. In addition, we have been able to transfer a lot of the technology that makes WRC tyres so shock resistant to certain road tyres.

    Studying tyres in endurance racing has helped us better understand the mechanisms that generate grip in dry conditions. Technology to optimize the pressure distribution under stress has been drawn directly from competition. This can be found in the new Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre, amongst others.

    Another example is the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyre, which incorporates bi-compound technology. Here, different rubbers are used on the inner and outer parts of the tread. On the outside, a unique, carbon black-reinforced elastomer compound developed for the Le Mans 24 Hours provides incredible endurance through tight corners. On the inside, a cutting-edge elastomer compound delivers excellent traction on wet surfaces, ensuring optimum ground contact, while cutting through the water film.
  • Are all the teams that compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours supplied with the exact same products by Michelin?
    Of course – one of Michelin’s key values is respecting its customers, and the company has always offered its competition partners the exact same level of support and quality. Each unique car may have a particular preference for a product type, but they are all available to the competitor teams.


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