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From Storms to Summer Heat: Goodyear Delivers Top Performance at Le Mans

One hundred years makes the occasion extra special. That was the feeling as the media, guests and engineers left the grid ahead of the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. Familiar with the usual pageantries, but with the added landmark of Goodyear’s 125th anniversary, the atmosphere around the circuit was alert to the sense of anticipation.

Inter Europol Competition claimed a popular victory in the LMP2 class with 328 laps completed. Its drivers, Jakub Smiechowski, Albert Costa and Fabio Scherer, took the #34 car to the checkered flag 53.8 seconds ahead of Team WRT’s #41 car.

Goodyear at Le Mans

Goodyear serviced a total of 24 teams in the LMP2 category with an around-the-clock operation that ensured teams had the right tyres at the right time.

The Goodyear slick tyre is designed to handle the variation of the entire World Endurance Championship. This is the second year that Goodyear has provided a single spec of slick tyres to LMP2 teams in which drivers can push across up to four stints.

The tyre is optimised to work in a broad range of temperatures. In addition, Goodyear’s wet tyre provided drivers with versatility and confidence when the rain came down during the first few hours of the race.

This year, the fuel tank sizes of LMP2 cars has been increased, meaning a stint length is now roughly 10% further than in previous years. During one of the fastest stints, Team WRT in the hands of Robin Frijns set its quickest lap on his penultimate lap before coming into the pits, highlighting tyre performance consistency.

LMP2: Story of the race

The race started under variable conditions. A downpour in the hour leading up to the race left the track wet on the Mulsanne Straight, but largely dry elsewhere.

With just under three hours of the race completed, a heavy downpour changed the complexion of the race. Goodyear engineers worked with teams to react to the weather and optimise pitstop strategies. A mix of yellow flags, slow zones and safety cars punctuated the early running, prompting pitstops and strategy changes.

From the middle of the night, the Inter Europol and Team WRT teams were engaged in a heated battle for the lead, reflective of the close racing in LMP2, where all teams are using the same tyre, engine and chassis manufacturers.

Ben Crawley, Goodyear EMEA Motorsport Director: “Le Mans has been an overwhelming success for Goodyear, with a huge operation in the paddock and supporting teams trackside. Building on Goodyear’s success in endurance racing, we have given the teams a durable and high-performing platform suitable for the highly competitive category. Our motorsport and road programs share the same set of challenges when it comes to designing a tyre that will not fade in performance across its lifespan.”

Goodyear ushers in new tyre tech with Garage 56

This year’s Garage 56 entry involved a significant contribution from Goodyear, collaborating with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsport and Chevrolet to bring a NASCAR back to Le Mans for the first time in almost half a century.

This unique car utilised a wider Goodyear tyre range than the LMP2 teams with bespoke dry, wet and intermediate options. The project was an overwhelming success, with the Camaro ZL1 completing 285 laps and finishing ahead of many of the experienced LMGTE category teams.

A state-of-the-art cured-in tyre pressure monitoring sensor (TPMS) has been developed by Goodyear for this project that tracks temperature and pressure in real-time. This helped the team monitor the tyre pressure and temperature closer than ever before.

Its fastest lap time was a 3m 50.5s, comparable to the fastest time set by the LMGTE class. The pace of the car all weekend was extremely impressive, highlighting the quality of the team.

Justin Fantozzi, Goodyear Garage 56 Program Manager: “The passive cured-in tyre TPMS sensors performed without a miss throughout the event. We’re able to monitor the tyre pressures and temperatures in real-time. During the race, we were able to alert the team of a possible puncture, which allowed a quick reaction to bring the car to the pits. The team was able to react to what they saw in the data and pit for new tyres.”

Chad Knaus, Hendrick Motorsports VP of Operations: “The collaboration with Goodyear on this project has been an invaluable component of the operation. Given the nature of the Garage 56 entry, not only did we need a tyre partner with knowledge of both NASCAR and endurance racing, but also the commitment to develop the range of bespoke tyres we need to compete at the highest level.”

The next round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is the 6 Hours of Monza.