Glickenhaus doubts environmental benefits of WEC tyre warming ban


Last December, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the FIA announced that tyre warmers would be scrapped from both the WEC and European Le Mans Series this year in a move “designed to reduce the teams’ environmental impact”.

As such, the respective qualifying sessions for both the prototypes – including Hypercar and LMP2 – and GTE cars will be extended to 15 minutes to allow drivers additional time to warm their tyres up.

Glickenhaus, whose eponymous outfit has a single car entered for the full WEC season in 2023, said he believes this extra track time, plus the increased risk of crashing on cold tyres, could well wipe out any benefits derived from scrapping tyre warmers.

“I think it’s important to know how much energy not having tyre warmers will save versus increasing the qualifying time from 10 minutes to 15 minutes,” said Glickenhaus in an online press call organised by the WEC.

“We now have to drive around to warm up the tyres – how much extra pollution will those five minutes cause?

 

“We are a great believer in the need to become more green; we are developing a hydrogen fuel cell pickup track with a quick, easy refuelling solution, and hope to be the first company to ever run a zero-emission off-road endurance race, the Baja 1000. We understand it’s important.

“But I do think that we can’t just take [untested] solutions and just say, ‘we are being more green by not using tyre warmers’.

“I think we have to study the math. If it [having cold tyres] causes one crash, how much energy does that cost, to rebuild the car? And the five minutes of having all the Hypercars running, how much energy will that use?

“It’s important we are honest and truthful about how we can help the environment and not come up with political solutions that look good but in fact may not be so good for the environment.”

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Toyota team director Rob Leupen shared Glickenhaus’s scepticism as to whether the measure was really a boost environmentally, but said he welcomed the move from a competitive point of view.

“You can crash the car on cold tyres; you can do it with heated tyres too,” he said. “I think it’s [about] the management of the team and how they handle it. We also like very much setting the challenge to our drivers and engineers to handle these situations.

“In the end, if it brings the green factor that much, I doubt it. I think Jim is right. But on the other side I think we should use the opportunities which have been given there to work with the circumstances.

“For me it’s fine to experiment in this way. In the longer term it should have a benefit to all of us, and especially towards the environment.”

 

Porsche, along with Cadillac, already has experience of racing its new LMDh cars without tyre warmers in last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Jonathan Diuguid, the team principal at Porsche Penske Motorsport, said he was encouraged by the efforts made by Hypercar tyre supplier Michelin – which also provides rubber for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – to make the tyre warmer ban workable.

“We worked quite closely with Michelin through the development process and ran tests with and without tyre heaters, and took that data to understand the approach,” said Diuguid.

“Any change in racing is also an opportunity for differentiation and increased competition. But I think with Michelin, they are invested in making it work too, so I think there will be an open discussion on that as we go through the process.

“I view it as a neutral change and look forward to the racing part of that.”

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