Michelin secrets on track at Long Beach Grand Prix
Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf, the winners of the 2012 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach aboard the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda, held a big secret throughout the week and until the final question of the 2012 post-race press conference.
Finally, given the nod to reveal their secret, Luhr, now a three-time American Le Mans Series Long Beach race winner, said: “The Michelin ‘street soft’ tires were a key to our success. The track grip level was low, but the street softs helped us dramatically with braking and handling. We give a big thanks to Michelin for providing us with that new tire.”
They were not the only Michelin technical partners to take the latest Michelin technology to victory in Long Beach. Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner claimed the win in the ultra-competitive GT class with new Michelin ‘tall’ front tires that helped with braking, turn in and extended tire wear.
Both Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda and Corvette Racing went on to earn their respective 2012 ALMS manufacturer, team and driver championships.
As the 2013 LBGP approaches, the Michelin ranks have grown and the technology gains continue. Michelin is now the technical partner of choice for 15 of the 17 open class entries in the 34-car field.
While the Muscle Milk Honda will return with the Michelin ‘street soft’ combination, its P1 rivals, the 2012 Petit Le Mans winning Rebellion Racing Toyota and the 2011 ALMS champions from Dyson Racing Mazda will compete using the Michelin ‘ultra-wide’ front tire combination that has proven so successful at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance championship with Audi and Toyota prototypes.
In the P2 class, Michelin will provide its proprietary P2 tire technology to the Extreme Speed Motorsports and Level 5 teams.
All of the Michelin GT class technical partners from Corvette Racing, BMW Team RLL, SRT Viper, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Paul Miller Racing Porsche will race on the Michelin ‘tall’ front tires that are 3 cm (1.2 inches) taller and provide improved braking, corner entry and extended tread life. While the dimensions are the same, the Michelin GT tire constructions vary to optimize performance for varied the front-, mid- and rear-engine cars designs.
Why are new tire sizes, shapes and compounds so important? “Tire design and sizing is becoming increasingly relevant for production vehicles, as vehicle manufacturers prepare to meet significantly higher fuel economy standards,” said Ken Payne, technical director Motorsports, Michelin North America.
“The technologies and tires we race on the streets of Long Beach are building blocks to help us create tires for consumers to drive on the streets of Long Beach in the future,” said Payne. “The general direction is for ”tall and narrow” tires, to reduce rolling resistance while providing total performance balance on handling, braking and wet and dry performance. Designing different sizes and shapes as well as new compounds is helping Michelin to prepare for those needs.”
The first six ALMS events in Long Beach have been won by five different teams (Penske, Audi Sport, de Ferran, Highcroft and Muscle Milk (2), and five manufacturers (Porsche, Audi, Acura, Aston Martin and Honda,) but just one tire maker: Michelin.
Michelin has won Long Beach with traditionally sized tires (Porsche-Penske 2007 and Muscle Milk Aston Martin 2011), with ultra-wide fronts (Acura deFerran 2009) and with ‘street softs’ (Audi 2008 and a second generation street softs Muscle Milk Honda 2012).