Cold war: Why tyre blanket ban is causing Le Mans spins

Le Mans News

Tyre warmers have been banned for the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours, giving drivers a bigger challenge when they exit the pits — and potentially affecting the outcome of the race

Kamui Kobayashi Toyota 2024 Le Mans

Will tyres (and their temperatures) decide the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours?


The intensity of dicing down the Mulsanne Straight, negotiating the challenging Porsche Curves and simply staying out of danger is normally difficult enough at Le Mans, but this year – with the biggest Hypercar field ever at 23 cars – a new regulation is sending a chill down the spine of some competitors.

For the first time since their introduction, tyre warmers will be banned for the race. The electrified blankets, which warms the Michelin and Goodyear rubber to temperatures of around 120°C, have been outlawed on sustainability grounds for other rounds of the World Endurance Championship and last year’s exemption for Le Mans has been removed for 2024.

What this means is that cars will now take up to half of the huge La Sarthe lap to get their tyres up to temperature, skating on what will feel like ice as the much slower GT cars – in optimum conditions – pass the struggling Hypercars.

It’s also led to a new bout of sniping between the Hypercar frontrunners.

First corner at Le Mans

Pit exit will prove a challenge for drivers on cold tyres

James Moy Photography/Getty Images

Ferrari Hypercar driver Yifei Ye explains driving on cold tyres at Le Mans

The effect will be huge: Ferrari driver Yifei Ye told Motor Sport that Hypercars will lose “20-30sec a lap” on new, cold tyres, while his works Scuderia team-mates have expressed safety concerns about the new ruling.

The young Chinese racer is one of the few drivers to have sampled multiple Hypercars, and he explains the intricacies of switching on the Michelins.

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“It’s quite a difficult question to answer, there are many things that come into play,” he says.

“Of course, you want to maximise your out-lap performance because that’s where you can lose or win a lot of time – we’re talking about being 20-30 seconds off the pace compared to a normal push lap with hot tyre.

“We all struggle, and we of course want to push, but also don’t want to put too much stress on the tyre, because if we try too much and we hit the kerbs on your first lap, that can damage the tyre. The first few laps really decides how much the tyre is going to deteriorate in the course of double, triple or quadruple stint.

“Over a long term, it could potentially increase the risk of having a failure or having a puncture. It’s always a fine balance.”

What the Le Mans drivers and teams say about the tyre ban

Yifei Ye Ferrari 2024 Le Mans

Ferrari’s Chinese driver emphasises importance of looking after Michelins in early laps


Antonio Fuoco crashed heavily when leaving the pits on cold Michelins at Spa last year, and his team-mate Alessandro Pier Guidi has said that despite Ferrari’s ability to fire up the tyres for one-lap pace, it’s still a situation Ferrari is uncomfortable with.

“In my opinion, it is a bad choice, unsafe and not useful at all, so it is not positive,” Pier Guidi told Autosport. “I don’t think it’s an advantage, despite the fact that we have shown that we are among those who warm the tyres better, so it could also work in our favour.

“You risk very serious accidents and I don’t think it adds anything to the competition.”

His team-mate Miguel Molina has added another dissenting voice to the FIA ruling, fearing the sizeable impacts that could occur on the Mulsanne and elsewhere.
“This is something we are concerned about,” Molina said. “We have seen in the past that it is not easy and we will have to be very careful because there is a risk of losing the race right away. In my opinion, we should reconsider because then the safety is not 100% there.”

Porsche 2024 Le Mans

Porsche team appears to be a dab hand at turning its tyres on


Ferrari Hypercar boss Antonello Coletta also the result of sports car racing’s biggest event could be highly influenced by Michelin matters, but says the time lost would be less than Yifei Ye forecasts.

“In past races, we have already seen that someone has been very good at warming their tyres and on a track like this, we lose over 15sec when we go out on cold tyres,” Coletta said. “It is important for the organisers to control the temperatures [of the tyres] when they go on the cars – the rules must be respected.

I don’t want the Le Mans 24 Hours to be decided on the warm-up of the tyres in the night or other difficult conditions.”

Porsche could be a beneficiary of the change, as it has been able to warm its tyres faster than rivals in previous races. Unsurprisingly, it is in favour of the change.

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“To me it definitely is the right thing to do,” said Thomas Lauderbach, vice president of Porsche Motorsport “We were voting even last year for no tyre warmers. This is 100% supported by us

“It looks like and I cannot tell you why, at least on the WEC circuits, it seems that we get the tyre [warmer] slightly faster [than Ferrari]. Ferrari are very, very professional. They see that. So they are not happy with it. And then maybe you need to bring a better argument than just: ‘They do better than us.’

“Yes, it’s a challenge but you get the same if you have a very long yellow [flag period] and the car tyre cools down. You’ve got to be careful. I can tell you about the salary of these guys. I can expect them to drive for one and a half laps with cold tyres!”

Porsche Hypercar driver Michael Christensen isn’t quite as confident as his boss. “I think when you get past the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight, you will be okay,” he told Sportscar365.

“But from the pit exit until that point, I think you can expect some things because you get quite some heat in the tyres down the straights as well and you start to get a feel for the grip. Our car doesn’t really like the cold tyres. There is the risk of doing a mistake; the risk of other people doing a mistake and you get involved in it; the risk of doing a flat spot with a completely new tyre, which you had to do many stints on. This could be a big issue.

Porsche hypercar leads Ferrari at Le Mans in 2024

Will Porsche gain advantage over Ferrari thanks to its tyre-heating abilities?

Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Some drivers believe an advantage could be gleaned from the scenario, with certain cars able to switch on the Michelins better than others.

“Ultimately there are some cars out there that are extremely good on cold tyres,” Cadillac’s Alex Lynn said to Sportscar365. “I think that will be definitely a benefit for a lot of people,” saying Toyota, Ferrari and Peugeot with their four-wheel drive hybrid arrangement – as opposed to the mandatory rear-wheel spec of the LMDh cars — could potentially work the situation to their advantage.

“It’s more the braking capability they have. They effectively could have four-wheel braking capacity. But in a sense, with the MGU, you can do a lot of tricks with it, with the front motor.”