There maybe be something new in the mix when MICHELIN and its technical partner teams take to the streets of Long Beach, Saturday at 1:00 pm PDT (4:00 pm EST) on FOX for the third stop of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“For the fans sake, I hope that it will be dry, but if the mid-week weather forecasts hold, there is a chance that we may have a rare wet race at Long Beach,” said Ken Payne, technical director, motorsport, Michelin North America.
“Wet or dry, I expect our tires and teams to perform quite well. The simplest scenario is if the conditions are fairly consistent. If there is a brief rain, the circuit will start to dry and we could have a combination, wet and dry race.”
The factory linked Michelin technical partner GT Le Mans (GTLM) class teams from BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Risi Competizone Ferrari, and Porsche GT Team are filled with extremely talented and experienced managers, engineers, crews and drivers and, together with their embedded Michelin engineers, will quickly adapt to every condition, wet, dry or changing.
Even in dry conditions the surface grip levels on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit through the streets of downtown Long Beach change every session due to the time of day, track temperatures, and the rubber compounds being laid down by the cars that precede the WeatherTech Championship on track.
“We can anticipate some of the changes as the track evolves in dry conditions, but if rain arrives on race morning or during the race it can change things up a lot,” said Payne.
If rain does arrive, it will make the conditions especially slippery as water brings to the surface any oils or chemicals that have been dropped by the normal vehicle traffic on the public streets which comprise the circuit.
Street circuits like Long Beach are especially difficult in the wet as the grip level is reduced. The spray of the water off the tires reduces visibility, and the concrete barrier walls that line the circuit extract a price for any miscues. Puddles, pools or streams of water, especially in the braking areas, can also be a challenge as are changes in track surfaces from concrete to asphalt and back.
Trick Tires, Not Here
The special Michelin wet weather tires that produced a stunning overall race win for a GT Le Mans class Porsche and Michelin at the 2015 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta are not an option for 2017 IMSA competition
“We are only permitted a single wet tire option in 2017 IMSA competition,” said Payne. “By agreement with our GTLM teams and the series, we are using our Michelin ‘customer racing’ wet tires that are available to club racers.
“At Le Mans and in the FIA World Endurance Championship we can use our innovative slick tire for damp/drying conditions, and the latest generations of our confidential “heavy wet” tire that we used at Petit Le Mans.
“The customer tires performed very well in the wet at Daytona, where we had more than 10 hours of racing in the wet.”
One of the keys to optimizing performance at Long Beach is hitting each team’s targets for tire pressures and temperatures according to Payne.
“Getting the tires to build pressures and reach their targeted tire temperature range at the race start and after changing tires takes a few laps,” he said.
Any extended caution periods will quickly drop tire temperatures and pressures, making restarts, especially on cold tires in the wet, very tricky.
There are 35 cars entered in the 2017 IMSA BUBBA Burgers Grand Prix of Long Beach, compared to 25 entries last year.