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Inside the Goodyear Tyre Strategy at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

As exclusive tyre supplier to the LMP2 category, Goodyear tyres will be raced by all 25 cars fighting for the class win in the race’s largest class in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Goodyear is also the tyre of choice for the race’s Innovative Car, a modified LMP2 machine for Association SRT41’s handicapped drivers. All of these 26 cars will have access to the same range of Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport race tyres.

In dry conditions, a single all-purpose ‘C-spec’ compound will be available. This specification has been used at every FIA World Endurance Championship round this season, and the last three European Le Mans Series races. Its versatility has been proven on a variety of circuits, from the demands of Spa-Francorchamps, the low energy of the Red Bull Ring and the high temperatures at Portimao.

Rain must always be factored in at Le Mans, and if conditions do become wet, teams have the choice between an intermediate and full-wet Goodyear tyre. The performance window of both is so wide that teams might choose to use the intermediate tyre in almost all wet conditions, or use the wet tyre on a drying track all the way until it’s time to change to slick tyres.

In an entirely dry race, around 2,200 Goodyear tyres will be used. In case of mixed or wet conditions, that number will rise. All in all, Goodyear will bring 5,000 tyres to Le Mans – almost 200 per car. Fitting and preparing these tyres is a monumental task in itself, and that’s why around 20 tyre fitters will work throughout the race in eight-hour shifts. They’ll be joined by 18 engineers, most of whom are assigned to one or two cars as an implant into each team. In total, over 70 Goodyear staff will be on-site.

One member of this team is Mike McGregor, Goodyear’s Endurance Programme Manager. McGregor explains one of the key aspects to a winning strategy at Le Mans. “Compared to some of the tracks we visit, Le Mans doesn’t put too much stress on the tyres over the course of a lap, because of its long straights in between the high-energy corners. We have developed tyres with superb durability, allowing teams to use them for multiple stints and save time in the pit stops. It’s fairly typical for teams to use the slick tyres for three stints – meaning they change tyres every three fuel stops. Last year, some teams stretched this to four stints. This year, I’d expect a few teams to target five stints on a single set of tyres. That’s around 50 laps, 680 km, or over twice the distance of a Grand Prix.

“Returning to the world’s most prestigious endurance race and finishing with two cars on the podium despite being outnumbered three to one on the grid was a huge achievement. This year, the challenge is much bigger as we supply 26 cars. Just as teams use the WEC and ELMS races in the build-up to Le Mans for practice and preparation, we’ve been gathering as much data and experience as possible. Last year the target was to beat the competition; this year our focus is on supporting each and every one of our teams in the best way possible.”

On-track action at Le Mans begins on Wednesday afternoon with the first free practice and qualifying sessions. Free practice, qualifying and hyperpole continue on Thursday, in preparation for the race start at 16:00 on Saturday, 21 August.

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