Le Mans test day a tyre-tweaking opportunity for Michelin
After a two-year absence from the endurance racing calendar, the Le Mans Test Day was revived this year as part of the teams’ preparations for the 79th Le Mans 24 Hours – and Michelin reports that it and its partners profited from the eight hours of testing gained through it. The French tyre maker says its aim was to validate its latest ranges of tyres ahead of the French endurance classic, which will take place on June 11 and 12. The session provided Michelin and its partners with one of the year’s few opportunities to lap round the full 13.629 kilometre circuit, which uses roads that are open to ordinary traffic the rest of the year.
“This test was especially important because of the new-generation prototypes that are competing in 2011,” observed Serge Grisin, manager of Michelin Competition’s four-wheel racing activities. “Today’s LMP1 cars are less powerful, and their aerodynamics and weight distribution are different, too. So our tyres face different constraints. Our response has been to develop a new range of covers, including new 36/71×18 fronts which are wider and have a bigger diameter than their 33/68×18 predecessors of last year.
“We have profited from the different test sessions we have attended with our partners, as well as from the races they have contested since the beginning of the year to develop our new 2011 endurance racing tyres,” Grisin added. “Today, our aim was to check that they performed well round this highly specific track. We are pleased with the result and I think we should be able to run quadruple stints on the prototypes during June’s race.”
Eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen from Denmark produced the day’s fastest lap (three minutes 27.687 seconds) at the wheel of the new Audi R18 TDi/Michelin. Peugeot also succeeded in beating the three minute 30 second barrier with the new 908 thanks to Sébastien Bourdais, who posted a time of three minutes 28.304 seconds.
In seven weeks’ time, Michelin will return to Le Mans to target its 20th win in the French race, and its 14th in a row since 1998. Before that, however, Michelin and its partners will be back in action in two weeks’ time for the Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours, the second round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.