When it comes to the development of tyres for racing or production sports cars, simulators are the ideal tool. At the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours, for example, all the prototypes competing in the race’s headlining Hypercar class will be equipped with tyres that were developed entirely using simulation software. The technology forms an essential part of Michelin’s relationship with its automobile industry partners because of the indispensable role it plays in the development of original-equipment, high-performance tyres. The combination of mathematical modelling and simulators effectively makes it possible to determine which tyre sizes and technologies are best-suited to a new car model as a function of its technical and weight-distribution characteristics.
Based on data-processing technology and advanced mathematical algorithms, it is a tool that consolidates Michelin’s status as a technological leader and data-driven company. By accelerating innovations that favour increasingly efficient racing and mobility, simulation optimises Michelin’s work with its partners and vehicle manufacturers, while at the same time reducing its Research and Development environmental footprint and providing real savings compared with longer, more traditional development cycles.
In concrete terms, the technology reproduces dynamic reality thanks to the interaction of three digital models. The first replicates the characteristics and grip properties of circuits, the second covers the properties of the vehicle’s chassis (or even the entire vehicle), and the third reproduces tyre behaviour in extreme detail. Behind the wheel of a simulator, drivers are able to test different types of tyre across an exceptionally wide spectrum of configurations.
To complete the process, the drivers’ subjective impressions and feedback are taken onboard alongside the objective data provided by the simulator, on which drivers perform just as they would in a real car or on a real racetrack.
As drivers adapt to this digital revolution, their mission has evolved considerably, with younger drivers honing their race-craft at the same time as they acquire simulator-related skills. The bridges between the real and virtual worlds has become a priority.