Michelin ready for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Do race tracks have feelings? Apparently Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca does, as the track surface grip level changes more frequently than any track on the American Le Mans Series schedule.
One of the most historic tracks in sports car racing presents unique challenges to Michelin and its technical partner teams. The historic 2.238-mile circuit is located just a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and is host to the third race of the 2013 ALMS season, on May 11.
“For drivers and teams, this track is all about grip and consistency,” said Ken Payne, technical director motorsports, Michelin North America. “There are tracks that you can run all day long and while the temperatures may change a bit, there isn’t much drama,” said Payne. That isn’t the case here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“The marine layer keeps the track surface cool in the morning,” said Payne. “There is usually direct sun at mid-day and it heats up. In the late afternoon, it starts to cool. This race stretches into early evening, when the sun moves beyond the hills and puts the track in shadow. At that time, track temperatures drop very quickly. If the wind kicks up you get sand everywhere. The cooler surface temperatures and sand combine for an extremely slick track.”
“Rather than constantly changing tires that operate in narrow performance bands, Michelin designers and developers have expanded the performance range for each of our tires,” said Payne. “That expanded range can really pay off here as it helps teams to stay matched up to the track longer and reduce the need to change tires and give up track position.”
Michelin technical partner teams generally choose soft or medium compound tires to maximize grip.
The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda prototype won the 2012 event, while Corvette Racing pulled off a GT class 1-2 with Michelin tall front tires. “Being able to run the Michelin street softs and then double–stint them was one of the keys to our speed,” said Muscle Milk co-driver Klaus Graf.