SBRS: Partner Profile: Michelin

French tire giant Michelin et Cie. ranks along with Dodge as a top tier partnership within Skip Barber Barber Racing School, Inc. Thousands of Michelin Pilot tires are used on every vehicle within the organization every year. From the Pilot SX...

French tire giant Michelin et Cie. ranks along with Dodge as a top tier partnership within Skip Barber Barber Racing School, Inc. Thousands of Michelin Pilot tires are used on every vehicle within the organization every year. From the Pilot SX and Pilot CS racing tires used in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and the Skip Barber Race Series to the various types of tires that shod the Skip Barber Racing School Formula Dodges, and the Dodge/Skip Barber Driving School Neons, Dakotas and Vipers, they all bare the mark of the famous Michelin man.

Michelin created the first pneumatic tire in the 19th Century and has gone on to become an industry leader in tire technology. Indeed Michelin outsold every other tire maker in 1999. Certainly no stranger to competition, Michelin has recorded wins in virtually every major form of motorsport including: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the World Rally Championship, Paris --Dakar and the Formula 1 World Championship, an arena they are about to reenter in 2001.

Over the recent Memorial Day Weekend at Lime Rock Park, Skip Barber Racing News took some time to chat with Ron Wood of Michelin North America about their involvement with Skip Barber and the future of tires and racing.

Why did Michelin get involved with the Skip Barber racing School?

We got involved with Skip Barber Racing School because we thought it was an excellent way to show our technology, not only with our street tires, but also on the racetrack. Since Skip Barber does both with the racing and driving schools as well as with a professional race series, we're able to demonstrate our technological superiority both ways.

What benefits has Michelin derived from this partnership?

It has been an excellent training ground for our engineers that we are trying to get involved in racing more and more. But it's also shown us a lot about our street tires and developing racing technology through the Barber Dodge Pro Series.

How much communication is there at Michelin between the competition department and the road tire department?

A tremendous amount. Many of the engineers that we have building the road tires are also out here working at the race track to make sure that we don't have any break in communication.

Will Michelin be expanding its competition presence in North America any time soon?

We are not yet ready to talk about our future plans, other than the fact that we are going into Formula 1, as you know. Still, we are keeping our options open, and we are very proud of what we've done in North America so far.

What do you see for the long-term development of road tires and how important role does motorsports play?

Motorsports plays a very important role in the long-term development of street tires. We put our tires under all sorts of adverse conditions and weather on a racetrack, which is very important to Michelin because we've always felt that we have an excellent tire for the rain and the snow as well as the dry. So in getting involved in all different types of racing, it gives us a great deal of knowledge that we try to incorporate every day into our street tire technology.

What's the road tire of the future going to be like?

That's an interesting question. One might ask, will there even be tires in the distant future? We think that something similar to the run flat tire, or something along those lines will eventually take over. As cars are progressing there's a movement to try and get more weight out of the cars and one of the quickest ways to do that is to eliminate the spare tire, and get rid of the jack. As a result we have to be prepared to supply a tire that will fit all of those situations.

When you go to the auto shows and you see a lot of the prototype cars, they all wear 18 or 19 inch wheels with extremely low profile tires. Is that really indicative of the tire application of the future?

Right now it looks like in the high-performance tires particularly, that is the way of the future. It provides an interesting challenge for us in trying to maintain a superior ride quality while maintaining the handling characteristics of the low profile tire.

From a marketing perspective, how does your typical retail consumer relate to your motorsports activities if at all?

Well they do relate, and a large percentage of consumers look at motorsport as a way of gaining information even if they are not fans of the sport. If they keep seeing Michelin tires on winning racecars in magazines and on TV, then when it comes time for them to buy tires, that name will be foremost in their minds.

For more information on Michelin, visit their website: www.michelin.com

-George Tamayo

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Skip Barber