Michelin Delivers a Le Mans 24 Hours One-Two Win
Following an eight-year absence, Michelin has marked its return to motorcyling’s Endurance World Championship with a one-two finish in the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours on April 19. The French manufacturer came back to the series this year alongside Yamaha Austria Racing Team, winner of this weekend’s race in France, and with the factory Honda that finished on the second step of the podium.
The 32nd edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours, notes Michelin, was marked by particularly taxing weather, including non-stop rain throughout the night from Saturday to Sunday. Paradoxically, it adds, it was these extremely slippery conditions that enabled the top two teams to pull clear of their rivals – and Michelin attributes this ability to its tyres, developed especially to provide all-important grip on cold, wet tracks. Michelin says the tyres’ performance was notably illustrated by the remarkable fight-back of the factory Honda ,which succeeded in carving its way back up the order from 42nd on Saturday afternoon – following a fall – to second place at the chequered flag after 727 laps.
Honda France’s sporting director Bernard Rigoni was full of praise for his team and for his Michelin tyres: “Today’s result is the fruit of three factors: the great bond which exists between our riders, the expertise of our technical squad and our Michelin tyres which were competitive from start to finish. Michelin tyres have always been capable of rising to the occasion across the full spectrum of conditions it is possible to come across in endurance racing.”
Michelin’s motorcycle racing activities also include the presence of a bike competing in its own colours for the entire 2009 Endurance World Championship campaign, namely the Michelin Power Research Team. The rider line-up features William Costes, Hugo Marchand and Josep Monge, whose mission is to collect as much technical data as possible with a view to contributing to the design of Michelin’s road-going bike tyres of the future.
Although the bid of the Michelin Power Research Team Honda was halted after 430 laps, Jean-Philippe Weber, the manager of Michelin Competition’s two-wheel programme, believes the weekend’s experience was fruitful on two accounts: “We now have the means to develop a new rain/night-time tyre for cold, very wet conditions. We have also noted several areas where we can make our team even stronger. Endurance racing is a discipline which calls for experience.”