Michelin changes gears from Le Mans to Lime Rock
Fresh from Michelin’s 15th consecutive victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, Michelin and its technical partner teams return to American Le Mans Series competition for the Northeast Grand Prix at Connecticut’s Lime Rock Park, July 6-7, 2012.
The contrasts between Le Mans to Lime Rock are dramatic. While a single lap of Le Mans covers nearly 8.5 miles and takes about three and one-half minutes, a tour of the 1.54-mile Lime Rock circuit can take as little as 45 seconds.
Former ALMS and Le Mans champion Allan McNish once described racing prototype cars at Lime Rock as akin to “flying fighter planes in your living room.”
The much shorter Lime Rock Park track length, coupled with a race time of just two hours and 45-minutes, compared to 24 Hours at Le Mans, means a high-intensity race with constant traffic and little rest for drivers or tires.
“Lime Rock is a distorted oval with nearly all right turns,” said Karl Koenigstein, Michelin North America technical team leader for the ALMS. “The left side tires take a fair amount of stress with very little rest or time to cool and the elevation changes impact tire loads as well.”
“Where at Le Mans, Michelin teams often run three and even four stints (fuel loads) on one set of Michelin tires, here at Lime Rock, the key is to be very consistent under braking and at turn in so that drivers can attack in traffic or, if necessary, defend a position,” said Koenigstein.
While Audi took the race victory at Le Mans, Michelin will rely on its technical partner Muscle Milk Pickett Racing to claim a third consecutive ALMS victory with the Muscle Milk HPD Honda prototype driven by former (2010) Lime Rock winners Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf.
Adding to the excitement at Lime Rock is the East Coast LMP2 debut for Dempsey Racing and drivers Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster. The duo will make their second ALMS start and seek a first-ever ALMS podium.
In the brutally competitive GT class, Corvette Racing looks to complete a hat trick for drivers Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin while, Corvette Racing teammates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia seek their first victory of the season.
The latest Michelin “tall” front tires —1.2 inches (3cm) taller than their predecessors— have played a key role in Corvette Racing’s GT wins at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and in Ferrari’s 1-2 GT finish at Le Mans.