Michelin Prepares For Refreshed Watkins Glen International Circuit
Fresh from its milestone 25th overall victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours race, Michelin and its technical partner teams return to IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition at the storied 3.4 mile Watkins Glen International circuit for The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 3.
“The circuit at The Glen is fast, challenging and technically difficult, and now, with a smooth and fast new surface, the competition should be incredibly close,” said Ken Payne, motorsports technical director, Michelin North America. “During testing in recent weeks with our Michelin technical partner GTLM class teams, we saw times 2-3 seconds per lap quicker than last year. We will see if that plays out, or if the series prefers to reel them back a bit.”
Michelin classifies the newly repaved track surface as “macro smooth/micro rough”. The macro-texture describes the overall surface, often related to the size of the aggregate (stones) and binders, and the micro-texture describes the close-up surface of those stones.
“A ‘macro smooth’ track surface takes away some of the bumps and a freshly paved ‘micro rough’ surface means there are now lots of nice microscopic edges for higher grip,” said Payne. “Our Michelin experience is that new track surfaces are typically slightly more abrasive than older, more worn and weathered circuits, and the fresh, darker pavement absorbs more direct sunlight than an older, grayer track, so we expect slightly higher track temperatures.”
“A less reflective, micro-rough track surface generally increases tire temperatures and wear,” said Payne.
“Our technical partner teams from Corvette Racing, Porsche North America, BMW Team RLL, Chip Ganassi Racing Ford Performance and Risi Competizione Ferrari have all tested on the new track surface and have preliminary ides as to which of our three dry tire options they expect to run,” said Payne.
“Weather is always a factor in tire selection and our Michelin engineers embedded with each team will be closely monitoring the track temperatures, grip levels and tire wear,” said Payne. “A six hour race offers opportunities to try different combinations and tire strategies.”
“We are pleased by the performance and successes of our technical partner teams in the first half of the season and at Le Mans, but now all of our attention is focused on The Glen and the challenges that await us here as we kick-off the second half of the WeatherTech Championship,” said Payne.
Corvette Racing won the first two endurance races of the season, the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and currently leads the WeatherTech GTLM Championship. Porsche, the defending GTLM class series champions, took the win at Long Beach while the Ford GT scored its inaugural victory at Monterey.
Ford won the GTE-Pro (GT-LM equivalent) class, finishing first and third at the recent Le Mans 24 Hours after a spirited race long battle with the runner-up Risi Competizione Ferrari team as WeatherTech Championship teams swept the class podium.
“With BMW, Ford and Ferrari entering 2016 competition with brand new models and Corvette and Porsche updating cars to the new the 2016 rules that provide more downforce and slightly more power, the teams have all been fast and very competitive,” said Payne. “Now as we approach the mid-point of the season we expect everyone to be at peak form here at Watkins Glen.”