Michelin thinks it knows what the future racers of Le Mans will look like after announcing the winners of their global Michelin Challenge Design contest. For the last 16 years, Michelin has been holding the contest, intended to encourage young designers. The competition receives entrants from around the world and is judged by a panel of industry professionals.
The theme for the 2017 contest was “Le Mans 2030: Design for the Win”, and was held in conjunction with 24 Hours of Le Mans organizers the Automobile Club de l'Ouest. The challenge was to create a breakthrough race car, looking forward to what each entrant felt would be the technologies, problem-solving skills, and innovations that would be seen on the track in the not too distant future.
The design challenge received 1,600 entries from 80 countries. The field was narrowed down to three winning designs, seven finalists, and 10 honourable mentions.
First place went to Tao Ni of China for "Infiniti Le Mans 2030" which has autopilot to handle the difficult night time section of the race.
Second place was awarded to Daniel Bacelar Pereira of Portugal for "Bentley 9 Plus Michelin Battery Slick". That concept involves an airless tire that is instead filled with batteries. Changing the power supply and the grip at the same time every pit stop.
Third place went to a Canadian. Kurt Scanlan, an industrial designer from Toronto, won for the "Cierzo C1." Ailerons mounted in the front steer the car using the air and allow it to "fly" around corners.
There was another finalist from Canada, Caledon Village, Ontario's Josh Gadomski for "Hydracross."
Some of the envisioned technologies include using tires as downforce producing wings on the “Embraer P1 Phenom Hybrid", tires filled with batteries like in the second place "Bentley 9", and a host of alternative energies that exist only in the imaginations of the designers. For now, at least.
Many of the designs were rendered on a digital version of la Circuit de la Sarthe, home of the 24 hour endurance race, but the "ConverT" entry from Minwoo Jeon and Donghun Nam of Seoul, South Korea, was set on a futuristic dirt "track".
One entry, the "Audi Ayrus", from honourable mention team Andhika Dimas Dwiputra and Freksa Arista Ihsan of Indonesia, even inserted itself into a victory lane from the past.
The first, second, and third place winners get an invite to the North American International Auto Show in January, and will be recognized in at a Michelin hosted reception. The first-place winner gets a trip to be recognized at the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. For 2018, the contest is looking for a revolutionary pick-up truck, and is open until June 2017.
My own favourite entry is the finalist "Bentley Speed X" from Guilherme Kataoka, Luiz Ortega and Marcelo Toledo of Sao Paulo, Brazil.