Michelin takes two-pronged approach to VIR
Michelin and its technical partner teams arrive at Virginia International Raceway for the ninth of ten stops of the 2013 American Le Mans Series season, preparing for competition on two fronts; to help Michelin technical partner teams win the race and to continue preparations for the early arrival of the 2014 season.
“This is only our second year at VIR, so we know that the conditions could be different from what we saw last year,” said Ken Payne, motorsports technical director for Michelin North America. “With its elevation changes, wide range of corners and narrow track, VIR presents us with several technical challenges. We have race wins and championships on the line and we will also be working closely with our Michelin technical partner teams to gain as much data and insight as we can to help prepare for next year.”
One major change at the 3.27-mile circuit is the loss of the track’s iconic 200 year-old Oak Tree which toppled earlier this year. “The tree is gone, but Oak Tree Turn remains and the braking, turn in, and power down performance required there are keys to the technical demands of the circuit,” said Payne.
Meanwhile, Michelin aggressively continues tire development in preparation for the launch of the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship (TUSC) in January 2014. “One of the most important lessons on the technical side of racing is ‘never lift,’ meaning don’t slow your technical development,” said Chris Baker, motorsports director for Michelin North America.
For Michelin, the race season traditionally started at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in mid-March of each year. That calendar is accelerated with the recent merger of the ALMS and rival GRAND-AM series, as the TUSC launches with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, January 25-26, 2014.
“It is very important that we keep pushing, maintain focus and keep building momentum,” said Baker. “We typically have some overlap with current season events, but now with Daytona testing in early January, that time is compressed and we need to be ready.”
Through the first eight races of the 2013 season, Michelin technical partners from Corvette Racing (five wins), BMW Team RLL (two) and SRT Motorsports Viper (one) have claimed all eight ALMS GT class victories. Those three factory teams together with top independents Risi Competizione Ferrari and CORE autosport Porsche have helped Michelin capture 22 of a possible 24 GT class podium positions.
Michelin has already secured the ALMS P1 prototype title thanks to seven consecutive overall ALMS race victories by the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda team while Level 5 Motorsports and Extreme Speed Motorsports have claimed all the P2 class wins.
“At Michelin we say that ‘we race to learn, we race to win,’” said Baker. “We don’t expect to win tomorrow’s races with yesterday’s technologies. We have had a lot of success this season, but we will keep developing. We never stand still.”