Michelin leaves competition guessing heading to Monterey
Fresh from a pair of convincing victories at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Michelin and its technical partner teams now head to the American Le Mans Series at Monterey (May 12) and a venue that provides both unique challenges and opportunities.
The latest Michelin street soft tires came through in great style for the race-winning Muscle Milk HPD Honda P1 prototype and new taller front tires proved successful on the streets of Long Beach for the GT-winning Corvette Racing team.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (MRLS), the third stop of the 2012 ALMS season, presents fresh challenges and opportunities. The 11-turn, 2.238 mile course includes significant elevation changes, most notably the 109-ft drop from the famed Corkscrew and a smooth, polished track surface where grip is further diminished by the deep sand surrounding the circuit.
“In some ways, Mazda Raceway is like a big street circuit in that the teams are looking to maximize grip,” said Karl Koenigstein, Michelin ALMS technical team leader. “The differences here are that some of the faster corners and elevation changes generate greater load factors than Long Beach and the race is six hours long rather than two hours. That extra distance places a greater premium on extended wear and the ability to multi-stint our Michelin tires.”
“We have run our earlier-generation street soft tires with success here in the past,” said Koenigstein, “The opportunity to run street softs exists, but the Muscle Milk team is our only P1 entry, so there isn’t much chance for comparative data. The Michelin street soft tires worked extremely well on their car at Long Beach and they were consistent for a full stint. We will try them in testing and practice. Whether they use the street soft tires for part or all of race will ultimately be up to the team.”
The decision to use the latest Michelin tall tire technology is clearer in the GT category, where the Michelin technical partner teams from the three-time MRLS GT champion Flying Lizard Porsches, Extreme Speed Ferrari, Corvette Racing and Aston Martin will all take advantage of the new Michelin taller front tires.
“Our GT technical partners can choose the tire compound they prefer, but all of the options are the new taller design,” said Koenigstein. “The cars have all been set-up for the taller tires and the advantages under braking, at turn-in and in extending tire life are there whether they choose our soft, medium or even the harder compound option. The real question will be how the teams’ approach the rear tires for power down on a low grip, and often sandy track.”