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Michelin looks for continued success at Laguna Seca

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There are several exciting changes in store at the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Monterey, Calif., May 22, but one thing that Michelin technical partner teams hope will not change is the Michelin record of success here.

In the 11 year history of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event, Michelin technical partner teams have scored 11 overall wins and 33 class wins.

The race, now the third stop on the 2010 American Le Mans Series, has moved to May from its traditional fall date. The race length will stretch to six hours from the previous four hours, and the start time moves up by a couple of hours.

"This is a low grip track surface, with sand around the circuit -- and sometimes on the circuit -- and cool track temperatures late in the race, all of which present challenges for tire grip," says Karl Koenigstein, Michelin ALMS technical team leader.

The longer race means more pit stops, and that provides more options in terms of tire strategies for Michelin and competitor teams.

Wear is not usually a big factor at Laguna Seca, as the track surface is not particularly abrasive. The loading factors of the seven left-hand and four right-hand turns produces relatively equal wear on left and right side tires.

Track temperature, especially falling temperatures in the closing stages of the race, can present a challenge. “This track loses temperature faster than other tracks we race,” says Koenigstein, who expects track temperatures in the low 60-degree range by the end of the race at 8:30 pm.

An extended late race yellow caution period can also be difficult to manage. “If you lose tire temperature, the cool track temperature makes it tough to get heat back into the tires, especially if you have been off line and have pick up on the tires” says Koenigstein.

Michelin technical partner prototype teams from Highcroft HPD, Drayson Lola Judd and CytoSport Porsche will have the option of choosing a new generation of soft compound tires or the Michelin "street soft" tires, the softest tires Michelin has ever offered for sports car competition.

Originally designed for temporary street circuits like Long Beach, the Michelin street soft tires' excellent performance and surprisingly long lasting tread wear prompted teams to ask Michelin to consider using them here. Both the 2008 race-winning Audi R10 TDI and the 2009 winning de Ferran Motorsports Acura wore Michelin street soft tires to victory.

In the GT class, Michelin technical partners from Corvette Racing, Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari will also have the latest Michelin GT soft tire option in addition to the traditional medium compound.

Making its Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca debut is the new Le Mans Prototype Challenge class (LMPC) featuring identical Chevy powered Oreca chassis. The LMP-C class vehicles compete using a Michelin non-proprietary tire from the Michelin club racing offerings.

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