Grip is the name of the game as Michelin and its technical partner teams from BMW Team RLL, Porsche North America, Corvette Racing, SRT Viper, Risi Competitizione Ferrari and Krohn Racing Ferrari head to Monterey’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the fourth stop of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
“The track is a low grip circuit, so our Michelin technical partner teams will rely heavily on tires to gain mechanical grip,” said Ken Payne, motorsports technical director for Michelin North America.
“The grip level is tricky because the track temperatures can change fairly quickly and the winds carry sand from the nearby beaches, farms, military installations and the big sand and gravel traps around the circuit itself,” said Payne. “The sand is very fine and it creates a moving layer of interference almost like microscopic marbles between the tire and the track surface.”
Cars often exacerbate the problem by dragging sand and gravel back onto the 2.238 mile circuit as drivers drop a wheel off the pavement or find themselves momentarily off track.
While Michelin has enjoyed great success at Mazda Raceway, winning overall and top GT class honors for the past seven years, two new factors may come into play on Sunday, May 4.
The TUDOR Championship will split the field into a pair of two hour events with the Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes starting at 10:15 am (PDT), followed by the big pro-based Prototype and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes at 2:45 pm (PDT).
Having fewer cars on the track may mean fewer caution periods and longer green flag runs on what has historically been a low treadwear circuit. “That would typically be a good thing for Michelin, as we tend to enjoy excellent consistency and long tread life,” said Payne. But the joker in the deck is a new rule for 2014 permitting tires to be changed at the same time as cars are refueled, thus limiting the advantage of multiple stinting tires.
The race start time and two hour race length means that we expect fairly warm but consistent track temperatures. “Our GTLM teams may be able to do the race on a single pit stop, but depending on caution periods and race strategies, we can envision teams making one, two or even no tire changes,” said Payne.
Michelin technical partner teams swept the first seven places in the GT Le Mans class at the recent Grand Prix of Long Beach and will have the same soft or medium compound tires available to suit their car set-ups and team strategies.
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.