Michelin and its technical partner factory teams from BMW, Corvette, Ford and Porsche will try to be ready for anything that the weatherman throws at them as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heads to The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 2.
Competing in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, the only WeatherTech Championship class permitting open tire competition, Michelin teams are able to utilize three different Michelin soft (cool), medium, and hard (hot) temperature range tires pre-selected by each manufacturer for its respective factory team.
The fast, challenging and highly technical 3.4 mile circuit became even faster and more precise in 2016 following a full repaving which produced a smooth track surface and resulted in lap times two to three seconds per lap quicker than the previous years.
A hot, sunny weekend saw 2016 track temperatures rise from 93 degrees at the start to over 120 degrees midway through the six hour race. As a result, some GTLM teams switched to the hot weather option as the temperatures rose according to Ken Payne, motorsports technical director, Michelin North America.
The 2017 Tire Forecast
“At this stage, over a week out, it looks like a mixed forecast with some hot weather, but with some wet conditions possible at times,” said Payne. “The fresh paving last year meant that the track surface was dark and really absorbed the sunlight, so the temperatures got pretty high.”
“A new track surface typically starts to evolve between the first and second season,” said Payne. “The sun lightens the track surface and makes it a bit more reflective of direct sun. The comparable temperatures should be a bit lower and all the laps made in the past year begin to polish the track surface and take a way a bit of grip.”
“If the temperatures are moderate or there is good cloud cover, teams will likely prefer their respective medium, or even the cool range tires, but if it gets hot again, I expect a switch to our hotter range tire,” said Payne.
If rain indeed appears, the Michelin teams are prepared as they raced the 2017 Michelin wet tires for several hours at the season opening race at Daytona.
Ford: The defending race champion Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs put on a show in 2016 with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe leading teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in a dominant 1-2 finish. The CGR team took the win at the season opening Rolex 24 At Daytona and Hand/Mueller and Ford currently stand second in 2017 standings.
Corvette: The 2016 GTLM Champions from Corvette Racing have taken three consecutive WeatherTech Championship victories with 2017 championship leaders Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia winning at Sebring and Circuit of The Americas and 2016 series champions Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner prevailing at Long Beach.
BMW: The Bobby Rahal led BMW Team RLL took a strong third place here in 2016 after a 5 hour long battle with the Fords. BMW’s John Edwards believes that the Watkins Glen circuit suits their BMW M6 GTLM car well and the team is long overdue for a victory.
Porsche: The brand new Porsche 911 RSRs have been fast and the addition of star Gianmaria Bruni to a strong driver line-up should make them even stronger as Porsche renews a championship push.