OYAMA-CHO, Japan – Nissan ZEOD RC's invitation to participate at Le Mans next year from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest is a tremendous technological development opportunity for the automaker, but also a ready laboratory for next-generation tires, says Michelin Director Serge Grisin.
Michelin makes more than half the tires for vehicles competing at Le Mans, but the Garage 56 status, reserved for cars with new technology, has special allure.
Grisin, speaking with the Global Media Center during the running of the World Endurance Championship at Fuji Speedway, said working with Nissan on the ZEOD project will help the tire maker in developing electric vehicle products and in bringing even better tires to consumers.
Serge Grisin, Director 4 Wheels Racing Division, Michelin:
"For Michelin, this project is really important. We're a technical leader in the tire industry. Garage 56 is a good way for Michelin to learn more about the way to design tires for electric vehicles, and then we can imagine new technologies for the next generation of tires that will have better performance and efficiency.
"This is a really specific tire, generally for LMP car the front tire is 20 cm, and with this tire it's 10 cm. That means that with a tire that's two times smaller, we'll have to develop the same road-car performance in terms of grip, in terms of longevity, and also the tire will be lighter. That means two times lighter than the standard LMP car tire, so by this way we'll have a tire that will be smaller and lighter, that will allow the same car performance. It's a way to improve the efficiency of the tire.
"So for the rear tire, based on the weight distribution of the car we have developed a specific tire that is more conventional, closer to standard LMP tires. It's 40-cm width, a 15-inch tire. What is important is to adjust the tire size to the car geometry, weight distribution and aerodynamic distribution, and also to have the best possible balance for the car.
"It's a fact we want to have the same longevity, to increase the longevity compared to standard racing tires, so we will develop specific compounds. The geometry of the car forces us to develop a front tire that is very narrow. But even with this narrow tire, we target to have a very high longevity.
"Competition is the laboratory for the street tire, and by the way of the project we are sure that we will have a lot of data from the run of the car that we will be able to use to develop the next generation of tire, and specifically for the electric cars.
"We talk about the future, but we are only at the beginning of the project. We can use a lot of simulation tools, because we want to be ready for Le Mans and we need to think about a lot of things regarding tire design. Before the car starts to run, we will start to give them the tire with the help of simulation tools that do analysis, and (make) a more efficient way to design the tire for the future."
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