Motorsport is an exciting source of important knowledge for the production tyre of tomorrow for Michelin.
Hypercars are in a league of their own. Manufacturers like Bugatti and Koenigsegg have long since pulverised the 400 km/h mark, which used to be reached only by sports prototypes at Le Mans. This means an extreme challenge for the tyres, which not only have to bring this enormous performance to the road, but also offer maximum safety and stability.
The car approaches almost silently. Only at the height of the observer can it be heard, then only a deafening thunder, roar, howl and a point that moves away again at breakneck speed. Even when it is long out of sight, the infernal mix of engine noise, tyre and wind noise still makes the air and stomach vibrate. In addition to all the technical and logistical effort, record drives are always a spectacle for the senses. This was also the case on 2 August 2019, when Bugatti set a new record for production cars with the Chiron Super Sport at 490.5 km/h on VW's own test track in Ehra-Lessien, Lower Saxony. Also on board: French tyre manufacturer Michelin.
4,100 tyre rotations per minute
The aim of the record drive is to break the magic 300 miles per hour. In the end, 304.773 mph or 490.5 km/h are on the clock, almost 40 percent of the speed of sound. This speed requires not only an exceptional vehicle, but also the connection between car and track, the tyres, must meet the highest standards. At 490 km/h, the record tyres rotate 4,100 times per minute. This figure gives an idea of the stresses to which the tyres are subjected.
Tests like the space shuttle tyres
Bugatti's 420 km/h fast production Chiron already runs on specially developed Michelin Pilot Sport Cup semi-slicks. For the Chiron Super Sport, which has been aerodynamically modified and increased in power by 100 hp to 1,600 hp, the belt plies of the high-performance tyres are reinforced even further. At Michelin's Charlotte site in the US state of South Carolina, the ultra-high-speed tyres are then put on a test rig that was originally built for testing the tyres for the Space Shuttle. There they have to withstand speeds of up to 511 km/h. This corresponds to almost twice the landing speed of a passenger jet. After production, each tyre is also individually x-rayed to rule out even the smallest irregularities.
"Michelin is very proud to have helped make this record possible," says Pierre Chandezon, head of the Bugatti tyre design team at Michelin. "This is the result of a close collaboration between Bugatti and us that goes back almost 20 years." Michelin and Bugatti engineers worked closely as a team to develop the tyre and chassis, using state-of-the-art materials and production techniques.
Tyre partner of Koenigsegg and Bugatti
Bugatti is not the only hypercar manufacturer to rely on Michelin's expertise. The Swedish noble manufacturer Koenigsegg has also exclusively equipped its cars with high-speed tyres from the French brand MICHELIN since the start of production in 2002. Like Bugatti, the Swedes can already look back on various world records together with Michelin. In 2005, for example, a Koenigsegg CCR reached a top speed of 387.87 km/h on the circular test track of Nardò in southern Italy and replaced the McLaren F1 as the fastest road-legal production car. In June 2015, a Koenigsegg One:1 completes the acceleration from 0 to 300 km/h plus the deceleration back to 0 in the new best time of 17.95 seconds. Finally, from 2017, the hypercar brand is increasingly targeting the 0-400-0 km/h discipline with the Agera RS and Regera models, setting new records here too with 36.44, then 33.29 and finally 31.49 seconds.
Maximum load for maximum reliability
Why this permanent record chase? On the one hand, it brings prestige, an added value not to be underestimated in the class of hypercars. But it also serves as a serious test field for what is by far the most exclusive passenger car tyre segment. Hypercar drivers must be able to rely on their tyres even at the highest speeds, and the high performance must be consistent. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to subject tyres and vehicles to stresses that are far beyond normal everyday driving - even for the demanding circle of hypercar owners.
Michelin also benefits here from its experience in motorsport. For years, the brand from Clermont-Ferrand held a quasi-monopoly in the LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship (WEC), despite free competition, and from the 2020/21 season it was selected as the sole tyre supplier for the WEC's new hypercar class, which will in future function as the highest class in endurance racing, for the following three seasons. The "civilian" hypercars from Bugatti, Koenigsegg & Co. should also benefit from this.