Michelin 'Street softs' ready for St. Petersburg

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When the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) cars took to the streets of the St. Petersburg Grand Prix circuit in 2008, the prototypes from the Michelin technical partner teams had an edge. They hope to continue that advantage for the Michelin technical partner teams for Acura and Mazda at the Acura Sports Car Challenge in St. Petersburg, on April 4th.

Grip is the name of the game on temporary street circuits like St. Petersburg, and thanks to a design developed by Michelin engineers specifically for the ALMS street circuits, the Michelin technical partner teams enjoyed a sweep of all four ALMS class wins, poles and fastest race laps here in 2008.

Perhaps the most stunning measure was that the 2008 St. Petersburg ALMS pole winning Audi driven by Marco Werner laid down a time that took the collective Indy car field over 1,632 laps in three different practice sessions to top. Even then, the difference in pole times was a mere 0.29 of a second despite a significant weight and power advantage.

What makes the Michelin “street soft” tires for ALMS so special?

“Anyone can make a soft tire that works for a few laps, the key to the success of our Michelin “street soft” tires is that we were able to consistently deliver exceptional grip for an extended period of time,” said Karl Koenigstein, Michelin ALMS technical team leader.

After their impressive debut at St. Petersburg, the Michelin “street soft” tires proved equally effective at the 2008 ALMS temporary street races at Long Beach and Detroit, where the Andretti Green Racing Acura successfully double-stinted their Michelin street soft tires for the final two hours (83 laps of the 2.07-mile circuit) to claim the overall race victory at Belle Isle.

That level of consistency and extended wear led to requests from Michelin technical partner teams to try the “street soft” tires at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a fast, natural terrain road course with dramatic elevation changes later in the ALMS season. Once again, the Michelin “street soft” tires proved equal to the challenge.

“Many of the things that we learn at the race track about grip, traction, braking and extended wear find their way into our Michelin consumer tires,” said Silvia Mammone, Michelin motorsports manager.  “Trying new innovations, like our Michelin “street soft” tires at our technical centers and at the race tracks, including the streets of St. Petersburg, helps Michelin to provide even greater technology for consumers for the streets they drive.”

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