Whether it's the energy-sapping spectacle of the 24 Hours of Le Mans or the up-close Formula E motorsport experience in the centre of Berlin or Paris: motorsport is always exciting and entertaining for visitors. Michelin also sees it as an exciting source of important knowledge for the production tyre of tomorrow because of the extreme operating conditions for tyres.
When Ferenc Szisz crossed the finish line in his Renault on 27 June 1906 after 1,238 kilometres, a two-day tour from hell over dusty tracks and sticky asphalt lay behind him and his mechanic. But the effort was worth it: the racing driver with Hungarian roots goes down in the history books as the winner of the first Grand Prix of motorsport and at the same time establishes the myth of Le Mans - today known for the legendary 24-hour race. An invention from Clermont-Ferrand was decisive for the historic victory: detachable rims with pre-mounted tyres from Michelin.
This episode from the pioneering days of the automobile is representative of Michelin's passion for mobility, which has always been closely linked to racing. So, more than 70 years after the legendary Le Mans spectacle, Michelin returns to the racing circuit in western France with another innovation: radial tyres. Renault Alpine took overall victory for the first time in the glorious endurance race on 11 June 1978 with the new tyres. The revolutionary tyre technology from Clermont-Ferrand impressively demonstrates its performance. Just one year later, the radial tyre finally demonstrated its superiority in racing: On 7 October 1979, when Michelin had only been represented in the premier class for two years, Jody Scheckter finished the Formula 1 season as the overall winner on Michelin tyres. A total of six out of 15 victories that year went to Michelin-equipped cars - after a competitor had previously declared in an interview "that radial tyres would never win the Formula 1 World Championship...".
Time jump: Motorsport goes electric
28 June 2015, London: When Sébastien Buemi crosses the finish line as the winner, not only does the first Formula E World Championship come to an end, but a new era of motorsport begins. For the first time since the invention of the automobile, competition on wheels and sustainable mobility are not contradictory - on the contrary: the purely battery-powered monoposti with their powerful electric motors are a pointer to the future of electric mobility. On board: Michelin. Fully committed to the idea of environmentally friendly and resource-saving mobility, the group has been involved in the pioneering formula class from the very beginning. The concept: Instead of special tyres that are exclusively designed for maximum performance on the race track, a near-standard 18-inch all-weather tyre is used. The Michelin development must not only offer grip and traction in the wet and on dry asphalt, but also last a whole race day - pit stops at the first drop of rain or due to immense wear of the soft rubber compounds are therefore history. Instead, durability is the trump card for the new MICHELIN tyres.
Through the consistent use of near-series technologies, Michelin engineers are gaining valuable knowledge in just a few dozen races, which is being incorporated into large-scale production. "The MICHELIN Pilot Sport 4 is the result of extensive research and development work," explains Serge Grisin, Head of Michelin's Formula E programme. "To this end, we have carefully analysed all the data and findings from Formula E." The tyres with optimised rolling resistance, which Michelin is developing especially for electric cars, also benefit from the knowledge gained from Formula E: the tyres contribute to a significantly higher range.
Michelin will remain a partner of Formula E until 2022, while continuing to develop its other partnerships to show that sporting competition and sustainable mobility are inextricably linked.
20 per cent weight saving per set of tyres
While the focus at the beginning of the young Formula E was on durability, since the fifth racing season, the focus has been on another important aspect that is of greater concern to the automotive industry every year: Weight saving. Since the Formula E cars use increasingly heavier batteries as their power increases, they inevitably also add more weight to the scales - important kilograms that have to be saved elsewhere. Michelin has achieved this feat with flying colours: Each set of tyres now weighs nine kilograms less than the previous generation. This corresponds to a weight saving of 20 percent. At least as important: Michelin engineers also discovered further possibilities for improvement in rolling resistance. This reduces the energy requirement, which in turn translates into faster lap times, as the drivers have more reserves.
The Formula E tyre goes digital
Invisible revolution under the tread: The latest evolutionary stage of Michelin's Formula E tyres carries its innovations discreetly under the tyre tread. The third development stage of the Pilot Sport tyres so far has a sensor on the inside that transmits data on the tyre condition at any time without contact. The tiny component is securely glued into the tyre and indicates the air pressure in each individual tyre even before each race. For the teams, this means an important time saving. The data is transmitted in an encrypted way so that it is protected from unauthorised access. In the long term, the constant flow of data will also be used in production tyres - and reliably inform the driver about tyre wear away from the race track. A great digital added value that can ultimately also contribute to more safety in road traffic.