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WEC Tyre Warmers Ban Lifted for Le Mans 24 Hours

Written By Hugh Waring


In a surprising turn of events, the ban on tyre warmers, which was introduced for this year's World Endurance Championship (WEC), has been reversed specifically for the upcoming Le Mans 24 Hours race. The decision, jointly made by the FIA and the race organiser, the Automobile Club de l'Auest (ACO), applies only to the highly anticipated double-points round of the series scheduled for 10-11 June.

The reversal of the ban follows an extensive evaluation of tyre usage data in collaboration with the WEC's exclusive tyre suppliers, Michelin and Goodyear, as stated in a press release issued by the ACO on Thursday. The ACO emphasized that this exemption is limited to the Le Mans race to ensure the safest possible environment for drivers of all experience levels, regardless of track conditions and temperatures.

The temporary lifting of the ban aims to provide a period in which tyre manufacturers, teams, and drivers can gain valuable insights and develop a better understanding of how to bring cold tyres up to the required temperature, benefiting the remainder of the 2023 WEC season.

This rule reversal will apply to all three classes participating in the championship: Hypercar and GTE Am, which use Michelin tyres exclusively, and LMP2, which relies on Goodyear tyres.

The decision to reintroduce tyre warmers comes after concerns were raised by drivers during the Spa 6 Hours meeting earlier this month. Multiple accidents occurred when drivers went off the track due to the challenges posed by cold tyres. Toyota driver Brendon Hartley and Ferrari's Antonio Fuoco, both competing in the Hypercar class, experienced high-profile incidents. Hartley crashed his Toyota GR010 HYBRID at the top of Eau Rouge during qualifying, while Fuoco lost control of his Ferrari 499P on the old pit straight immediately after leaving the pits.

Antonello Coletta, the head of Ferrari's sportscar racing division, highlighted the need for serious consideration of the matter, emphasizing the significant safety implications. Toyota driver and team principal Kamui Kobayashi echoed these sentiments, calling the ban "crazy dangerous."

Coletta statement was quoted:

“Starting from the assumption that the rules are the same for everyone and that we abide by them, I think we need to reflect on the ban on tyre warmers,”

“It’s a common opinion in the paddock and among professionals, not to mention the drivers, that this situation has become dangerous. At Spa, there have been many accidents and extreme episodes due to cold temperatures and changeable weather, and it’s time to do some serious thinking on the matter because it has major ramifications for safety.

“We are on the eve of a decisive race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans where, overnight, temperatures are low and speeds very high. It’s not just an issue for us. The accidents involved different cars, from different classes, driven at the time by both professional and gentleman drivers, and this situation had already been predicted some time ago.”

Images: Motorsport Images

The FIA had initially defended the ban, describing it as a necessary step from a sustainability standpoint. They pointed out that tyre warmers were prohibited in other racing series, including endurance racing, making a specific reference to the IMSA SportsCar Championship in North America.

The ACO clarified in their recent statement that the ban on tyre warmers had been part of a long-term WEC tyre roadmap developed in consultation with tyre manufacturers over the past two years.

In a related development, the ACO announced that a 100% sustainable fuel, supplied by WEC's exclusive supplier TotalEnergies, would be mandatory for use in the ovens that teams use to pre-heat the tyres at Le Mans.


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