The ACO has confirmed that tire warmers are set to be re-introduced to the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month, under a single-race exemption.
According to the ACO, this decision has been made to ensure that “drivers of all experience levels will be able to compete in the safest possible environment regardless of track conditions and temperatures.”
It will also give “tire manufacturers, teams and drivers will gain valuable time to develop a better understanding of how to bring cold tires up to temperature ahead of the remainder of the 2023 FIA WEC season.”
The return of tire warmers will apply to all three classes, with the warming ovens set to be powered by 100% sustainable fuel from the series’ exclusive supplier TotalEnergies.
This decision comes after several significant incidents impacted the 6 Hours of Spa weekend, caused by cars struggling on cold tires in the changeable conditions.
The new-for-2023 policy was originally introduced to reduce the FIA WEC’s environmental impact as part of a long-term tire “road map” after months of discussions with the series’ tire manufacturers, Michelin and Goodyear. However, the incidents for front-running Hypecars in Spa involving Brendon Hartley (Toyota) in qualifying at Raidillon and Antonio Fuoco (Ferrari) on the way down to Eau Rouge during the race, put the issue in the spotlight.
The reaction to the incidents included an openly critical statement after the race from Antonello Coletta, the head of Attiva Sportive GT.
“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 tire warmers,” he said. “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.”
RACER understands that Ferrari was the only manufacturer openly lobbying for this change.