PARIS — The organizers of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) have selected Michelin Motorsports to be the exclusive tire supplier for the WEC's top endurance racing class, the "hypercar" class, for 2020-2023.
The hypercar class, set to debut in the WEC's 2020-21 season, will replace the current LeMans Prototype (LMP) class as the endurance racing series' top vehicle category. The WEC includes the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans race, held annually in June.
The deal was announced this week by Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), the commercial promoter of the FIA WEC. Financial terms were not disclosed.
"As supplier of the new Hypercar class, (Michelin) will be making a vital contribution to the bright new era of endurance racing," ACO President Pierre Fillon said, noting that Michelin has been active in the WEC for the past seven years.
The new hypercar class, according to the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA), is based on the car industry's development of exotic road-going supercars, such as the Aston Martin Valkyrie.
To be eligible for inclusion in the WEC Hypercar class, a manufacturer must produce at least 20 units of the particular model in a calendar year, the FIA said.
For WEC competition, hypercars will have a minimum curb weight of 1,100 kg and have a rated powertrain average total output of 550 kW (750 hp). If a manufacturer opts for a hybrid powertrain, the output of the hybrid powerplant is limited to 200 kW (270 hp).
For models based on road-legal hypercars, the hybrid powerplant can be used for all four wheels whereas it must be limited to the front wheels in a prototype design.
These regulations are designed to create a top class with a level playing field and limited impact of the budget on the performance to encourage teams to run two cars in a full FIA WEC season over a five-year campaign, the FIA said.
Thus far only Toyota Motor Co. and Aston Martin have committed to the Hypercar class, starting in the 2020-21 season.
The WEC's existing LMP2 prototype class — for which both Michelin and Goodyear offer tires — will continue to exist alongside the Hypercar class, albeit with performance restrictions designed to provide a distinct gap between the classes.
Scott Clark, executive vice president of Michelin's Americas region, said being selected as the Hypercar category's exclusive tire supplier "offers us new and particularly interesting challenges and also allows us to strengthen our partnership with exclusive vehicle manufacturers.
"As always, our goal is to develop tires that deliver the highest levels of performance and consistency over their life. Additionally, we look forward to bringing innovations that deliver sustainability solutions to the series" in alignment with Michelin's corporate strategies.
Michelin also is the designated tire supplier to the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the endurance-racing series focused primarily on North America.
Goodyear, which only recently returned to international road racing under its own brand name, also expressed an interest earlier in the Hypercar tire contract. Just recently it secured the contract to supply the European LeMans Series' LM-GTE class for production-based supercars. The ELMS is distinct from but overlaps with the WEC.