Behind the scenes at Le Mans: The logistical story that powers Goodyear’s tire supply
Le Mans takes a proud spot on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar: a high-speed travelling circus with some of the world’s most advanced technologies and finest motorsport talents on display. While one of seven races in seven countries on three continents, each with unique logistical challenges, none compare to Le Mans.
When the cars line up to begin the centenary edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Saturday 10th June, it’ll be down to the thousands of hours of preparation and setup. This extends to Goodyear, the exclusive tire supplier of the LMP2 category.
Le Mans demands the most planning and resources of the season. Every team requires significantly more to run without issues for 24 hours. For example, on its way to victory in 2022, Team Jota covered 369 laps (5,028 km), or the equivalent of over 16 Formula 1 Grand Prix distances.
Over the last few seasons, Goodyear has worked to lower the overall number of tires used each weekend. This is, in part, by broadening the operating window of both slick and wet tires. This mirrors the development of Goodyear’s award-winning range of road tires, which are designed to handle the full range of summer, winter or all-season conditions.
Over the course of the weekend, over 2,500 tires will be used, which are carried on 10 trucks from the Goodyear manufacturing plant in Hanau, Germany, to Le Mans. More than 65 Goodyear team members travel to Le Mans to support teams.
In addition to the usual Le Mans spectacle, this year Goodyear is also involved in the Garage 56 project that, alongside Hendrick Motorsport and Chevrolet, sees NASCAR return to Le Mans for the first time since 1976. The project has required a bespoke tire development program which brings together Goodyear’s expertise in both endurance racing and NASCAR.
Development work for Garage 56 has taken place on two continents with multiple teams of engineers. Over the course of 10 tests in the last 12 months, almost 10,000 km has been covered in preparation for Le Mans.
Paddock support: An around-the-clock operation
The job doesn’t end when the tires arrive at the circuit. Goodyear’s dedicated team of fitters service tires around the clock to ensure teams have their allocated sets on time. More than a week before the race, Goodyear engineers set up the fitting areas in the paddock. Each team must receive their tires at the correct time ready for inspection and final inflation.
Tires are shuttled from the fitting area to the garages ready to be fitted to the cars. Once used tires are returned to Goodyear, a select number are analysed at the fitting area before being recycled.
Each team is allocated six sets of slick tires for practice, and 14 sets for the race and qualifying. The number of wet tires is unrestricted. Dedicated tire engineers from Goodyear are embedded into each team to look after all tire requirements, often working with the same team for the whole season. The support Goodyear engineers provide extends to advising teams on the best setup, and giving guidance on race strategy.
To keep track of tire usage, the latest Radio Frequency Identification Tag (RFID) technology is installed inside each tire. This helps quality control and ensures tires are in the right place at the right time. Goodyear has been instrumental in the development and introduction of RFID, as the first tire manufacturer to introduce the technology in motorsport in 2008.
Ben Crawley, Director of Motorsport EMEA, Goodyear: “The preparation for Le Mans is the largest undertaking of the season, with planning starting months in advance. Every member of the Goodyear team shares a passion for racing, which is why we’ve been able to continue to deliver innovation. While it’s also the most demanding in terms of each team’s requirements, the grid is typically much larger than an average WEC event because we also welcome teams from the European Le Mans Series (ELMS). We are delighted to be continuing to support this expanded grid for the most iconic race on the calendar.
“Our team of tire fitters, engineers and wider support team all work in harmony to make each event an operational success. When it comes to the challenges of Le Mans, the expert Goodyear team is ready for anything.”
About The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
Goodyear is one of the world's largest tire companies. It employs about 74,000 people and manufactures its products in 57 facilities in 23 countries around the world. Its two Innovation Centers in Akron, Ohio, and Colmar-Berg, Luxembourg, strive to develop state-of-the-art products and services that set the technology and performance standard for the industry. For more information about Goodyear and its products, go to www.goodyear.com/corporate.