The multi-year agreement replaced a supply deal IMSA had with Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. since 2010 that ended in 2018. The deal calls for Michelin tires to be on every Prototype and GT Daytona race car competing in the WeatherTech Championship as well as on the companion Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge series.
"We began prep for the 2019 (races) toward the middle or third part of 2017, as soon as we learned of the award (to supply IMSA tires)," Mr. Payne said. "That's when we started to identify our staffing requirements, get involved with marketing and communications, planned tire supplies and analyzed tire logistics down to how the tires would be transported to the tracks."
Mr. Payne and his team analyze all available data from past races — from tire supplies to race results — before they begin to formulate plans. Even when prototypes of tires are supplied to IMSA race teams, they are tested and refined continuously before they are ordered into production.
What might seem like minor tweaks — increase of a rear tire dimension for one car, added robustness needed for another tire — can have major impacts on race results.
Production takes place at the company's plant in Clermont-Ferrand, France, before they are transported, usually by ship, to the Port of Charleston, S.C. From there they are trucked to climate-controlled warehouses near Michelin's North American headquarters in Greenville, S.C., before they are transported to racetracks.
Scott Clark, chairman and president of Michelin North America, elaborated on the magnitude of his company's participation in the IMSA series at the recent North American International Auto Show.
"Endurance racing is woven throughout the fabric of Michelin's history. In fact, racing has always played an active role in driving innovation and ingenuity at Michelin," he said. "More than any other motorsports pursuit, endurance racing demands reliable performance over time."
As IMSA's exclusive partner, Michelin will support 19 automotive brands this year competing in different classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship — compared with five brands last season in the GT LeMans category.
Michelin's deal with IMSA also is an extension of and benefits from its work as a supplier the past few decades for the FIA World Endurance Championship — including the 24 Hours of LeMans, where Michelin-equipped teams have won 21 straight times.
Teamwork at tracks