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Michelin waiting for ProTeams to come asking for tires born from its coveted auto-racing program

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Mar. 6, 2013
  • Updated Mar. 6, 2013 at 10:04 PM EDT
Each tire is labeled specifically for where it goes on which car and has a paper trail. All four tires are accounted for at trackside, but the job isn’t done until Michelin gets them back. Photo: Lennard Zinn | VeloNews.com

Tight security

The technology and know-how built into its tires is expensive to acquire, and Michelin guards its trade secrets carefully.

“If they X-ray or cut apart one of our tires, they can know exactly what is in there,” said Mammone. At the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which celebrates its 61st edition on March 16, Michelin will bring 3,000 tires in a fleet of semi-trucks. Each team using Michelin tires must account for every single tire, and they even employ staff to guard their tire stockpiles. The tires have individual bar codes affixed as well as imprinted into them, and a file on each tire says, for instance, that it is for the right/front of a specific car.

“We have not lost a single tire in the 12 years I’ve been in this job,” Mammone said with a smile. “If a tire is missing, we go into DEFCON 3 and shut the whole place down — all exits — until we find the tire, and then that team can no longer be on Michelin.”

And in the case of a crash or other incident that destroys a tire: every piece of that tire is collected and put in a “tire body bag” and returned to Michelin. All of the corner monitors know the Michelin drill and see to it that all of the pieces are collected.

After the race, all of the tires that were used are sent to Michelin’s engineering facility in Greenville, South Carolina, where they are cut apart and examined. If questions remain, some tires may even be sent to Michelin’s main engineering campus in Ladoux, France.

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Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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