At the end of January Michelin delivered the first set of specially designed race tyres to the 24 Hours of Le Mans-bound Project 56 DeltaWing team. One look at the unique sizes of the tyres makes the radical nature of the DeltaWing prototype design obvious.
The Delta Wing front tyres are just 10/58-15, or less than 23 inches tall, and with a tread just four inches wide. By contrast, the 2011 Le Mans-winning Audi R18 TDI turbocharged-diesel prototype used taller and wider front 36/71-18 Michelin tyres, approximately 28 inches tall with nearly 14 inches of tread width.
“The difference in tyre size is stunning,” said Michelin American Le Mans Series technical team leader Karl Koenigstein. “You could fit three DeltaWing Michelin front tyres inside an Audi Le Mans Prototype Michelin front tyre.”
The rear tyres are less dramatic in size, because the DeltaWing is designed to race with 31/62-15 tyres while the average LMP2 prototype rear tyre is sized at 37/71-18. “The DeltaWing rear tyre is not as tall and uses a smaller rim,” -noted Koenigstein.
The DeltaWing has been granted the special invitation for the 56th entry at the 2012 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Its design is based on the concept of “half,” meaning half the power, weight, fuel and tyres of current Le Mans Prototype competitors with comparable performance.
The specially designed Michelin tyres draw on the Company’s record of success at Le Mans, where Michelin has taken the overall victory in each of the past 14 consecutive years.
“Michelin races to learn and races to win,” noted Silvia Mammone, Michelin motorsports manager and project leader for the Michelin DeltaWing. “There is tremendous focus in the auto industry worldwide on making vehicles lighter without sacrificing performance, and we hope to learn a great deal from our collaboration with the DeltaWing program.”
The first stop for the latest Michelin tyres will be the full-size wind tunnel, where the DeltaWing team validates its data on the first completed race car before embarking on initial track testing.