Diesel Driven Audi Takes Le Mans on Michelin Tyres
Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner scored a victory in the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours in front of 235,000 spectators. Audi has effectively succeeded in its bold bid to win the world’s most demanding endurance race with diesel technology. And Michelin rose to the challenge to join its partner on the top of the podium, its ninth consecutive victory at Le Mans. The French tyre firm was also successful in the LMGT1 category with Chevrolet Corvette and in LMP2 with the RML-run Lola. Pirelli also came away with honours after the LNT British team, Panoz Esperante, won the LMGT2 category. Pirelli took the LMGT2 title with Yokohama-equipped teams following in second and fifth places in the same category.
For Michelin, the challenge began when Audi took Michelin Competition into its confidence in mid-2003. Since then, the firm’s competition, research and development staff have been busy working on advanced new tyres capable of coping with the V12 diesel’s power and torque characteristics, as well as working harmoniously with the configuration of the R10’s chassis and aerodynamics.
“A big bravo has to go to everyone at Audi Sport Team Joest which today pulled off its bid to win Le Mans with diesel power,” said Frédéric Henry-Biabaud, Competition Director of the Michelin Group. “At Michelin, we are extremely proud to have worked at its sides throughout this exciting adventure. The timing of the programme was respected to the letter, from the new tyres’ initial design to our first tests together and our wins at Sebring in March and here today at Le Mans where the objective was always for the R10s to cover triple stints with the same tyres.”
The Pirelli-equipped Panoz Esperante team prevailed in the LMGT2 category, after leading – as it had at the “Sebring 12 Hours” last March – with the Ferrari 430 GTC. The Ferrari had been favourite in its category despite being slowed down by a number of technical troubles.
Representatives of the Italian manufacturer were obviously pleased to witness the winning performance of the P Zero Racing-equipped car. Pierluigi De Cancellis, Pirelli Competizioni Circuit Manager commented: the “more than excellent performances and sedulousness qualities showed, during both qualifications and the race, by the Pirelli tyres, allowing that way the Panoz’ umpteenth winning exploit. The immediate retirement of the Scuderia Italia Aston Martin, mounted on P Zero Racing tyres, extinguished the hope to aim high in the LMGT1 category too. However, the results gathered here in Le Mans are certainly valuable for the future developments of our Pirelli P Zero Racing, which will be used for the races in Europe and in the US.”
The final hours were all about endurance for the Yokohama Advan GT2 teams still in the running. Having run for seven hours without third gear, a selection problem halted the Seikel Motorsports car on the track just after the Mulsanne corner. Dominik Farnbacher was able to find a gear and get the car back to the pits.
Having led the race for 19 of the 24 hours it was a big blow for the Seikel squad to settle for second.
Peter Goebel, Team Manager, Seikel Motorsport: “I have been speaking to Yokohama for some time after I heard of very favourable testing in the USA of the motorsport tyres. Once we knew that Yokohama could supply us with the tyres for the car we were very happy to come with them to Le Mans. The Yokohama tyres were a fundamental part of the plan to double stint the tyres as well as the drivers. We knew that we could save 15 to 20 seconds per pit stop so Yokohama was critical to our success in the race.”
Advan brand manager, Kunihiko Ito, added: “Le Mans is a big part of our activities for raising the profile of the ADVAN brand. To be such a strong competitor in the greatest race in the world on such a high profile car brand as Porsche is helping us to spread the word. Le Mans is a very important motorsport event for us and it is an excellent way to raise our brand image.”