The 24 Hours of Le Mans, held on roads normally open to day-to-day traffic, presents tyres with exceptional challenges, from the uneven surface of the track to sudden changes in weather and temperature.
Thus tyres must offer flawless, perfectly balanced performance, as well as safety, grip and versatility from start to finish! Hence the laboratory of innovation for Michelin tyres has stood the test of time
Innovations that changed our mobility
The winner of the first 24 Hours of Le Mans was a Chenard & Walcker fitted with Michelin tyres. He finished the race with an average speed of 57 km/h. Removable tyres revolutionise mobility by combining resilience, durability, comfort and ease of use.
Patented in 1946 and marketed from 1949, the Michelin X tyres feature a revolutionary radial carcass with metal belts for lasting safety, comfort and fuel economy. At the 1951 24 Hours of Le Mans, a Lancia B20 GT on radial tyres won its class.
Michelin was the first manufacturer to compete at Le Mans with slick tyres. Their completely smooth, pattern-free tread provided superior grip in dry conditions. The slicks had an immediate effect: the Alpine A210 completed a sub-four-minute lap for the first time in its class and won the P1.6 classification.
The victory of the Renault-Alpine A442B at Le Mans in 1978 with Michelin High-Performance radial tyres underlines the extraordinary value of this technology. This was followed by successes in Formula 1, which also proved the superiority of radial tyres and helped the technology to become established worldwide.
Technological developments such as advances in drive technology from petrol and diesel engines to hybrid drives, the introduction of disc brakes and increasingly sophisticated aerodynamics posed new challenges for tyres. They had to adapt to greater demands, including higher power, loads and torque, while offering better efficiency.
Michelin’s track record at Le Mans matches the incredible revolution the race has witnessed in terms of performance. In the last 10 years alone, Michelin has helped the LMP1 prototypes cover up to 466 miles on a single set of tyres, at an average speed of 149 km/h. That is more than the distance covered by two Formula 1 Grand Prix!