As winner of the inaugural Le Mans 24 Hours in 1923, MICHELIN had a clear mission for the competition’s 80th edition: to support the bid of its partners Audi and Toyota to race hybrid technology in world class motorsport. MICHELIN’s response to that challenge was the development of a brand new range of tyres, including a new ‘slick/intermediate’ solution for the LMP1 prototypes.
The action during the race’s first six hours showcased the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, the R18 ultra and the Toyota TS030 Hybrid before the Japanese make’s return to Le Mans – after a 13-year absence – was prematurely terminated by a variety of incidents. With all four of its prototypes still running, Audi only had to finish to collect the brand’s 11th victory at Le Mans.
The result produced the fifth all-Audi/MICHELIN podium at the French race since 2000, while MICHELIN took its score to a record-breaking run of 15 consecutive successes since 1998.
MICHELIN also dominated the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes. In the former, its partners Corvette, Aston Martin and Ferrari took turns to lead, although victory finally went to the N°51 AF Corse Ferrari of FISICHELLA/BRUNI/VILANDER. The LM GTE category was won by the N°50 Larbre Competition Corvette, ahead of the N°67 IMSA Porsche. Both two hold special importance for MICHELIN inasmuch as they enable a direct carryover of technologies developed in racing to its road tyres.
This weekend saw MICHELIN lay the foundations for the future of motorsport, too, through its involvement with the futuristic Nissan-DeltaWing prototype which was invited to contest the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours in the ‘experimental’ class.
To equip this unique car, MICHELIN’s engineers developed specific, revolutionary front tyres just 10cm wide and weighing only 5kg each, which are twice as durable yet capable of safely reaching speeds of more than 300kph. The Nissan-DeltaWing succeeded in regularly lapping faster than the target time established by the ACO (race organisers) before being edged off the track by another car on its 76th lap.