- Michelin heads to Long Beach
- Perspective on street circuit
- Short race of just 120 minutes
Michelin Looks to Tame the Streets of Long Beach
Although the bounds of the venerable 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach Grand Prix circuit remain unchanged, Michelin expects to face at least three different versions of the track as Michelin and its technical partner teams seek to continue a perfect record in American Le Mans Series competition at America's most iconic street circuit.
"At Michelin, we say; 'the right tire changes everything,'" said Karl Koenigstein, Michelin ALMS technical team leader. "The challenge for Long Beach in such a short (120 minute) race is there isn't much chance to change anything. It is critical that we have the right tire with the ideal pressures and set-ups on the cars at the beginning of the race."
The unknown is that the track conditions can change throughout the weekend and the American Le Mans Series cars are not on track on Saturday before the start of race at 4:30 pm. Anticipating track changes and matching car set-up and tire selection to the conditions may well determine the outcome of the second race of the 2011 American Le Mans Series. Here are Koenigstein's expectations for the race weekend:
THE CIRCUIT PROGRESSION
Practice: "The first and only ALMS practice is at 7:15 am on Friday morning," said Koenigstein. "We are the first cars on track for the weekend. The track is cold and dusty, so the first 30 minutes or so everyone will be struggling for grip. There will be dust everywhere as we literally sweep the street with half million dollar race cars. Gradually the cars get the surface cleaned up and start picking up some grip toward the end of the session."
The ALMS cars will then return to the track for qualifying at 5:05 -6:20 pm Friday, when they expect a different scenario.
The track will have evolved and the racing line started to emerge.
Qualifying: "The track surface will be very different for qualifying" said Koenigstein. "There will have been a lot of cars on track from all the other events. The track will have evolved and the racing line started to emerge. The sun usually bakes the track during the afternoon, but shadows will start to appear to cool the track during qualifying."
"Qualifying is a big session for two reasons," continued Koenigstein "Track position for the start of the race is especially important in the GT class where the field is incredibly tight. And since our race will be close to the same time on Saturday (4:30 p.m.) our Michelin engineers and teams will start getting a clearer picture of what to expect for the race."
Teams must start the race on their qualifying tires. Using soft tires for qualifying may leave cars vulnerable to performance drop off and excessive wear if the race runs under extended green flag conditions. Conversely, harder tires offer better wear and consistency but can take longer to build up pressure and temperatures, especially after restarts. Michelin has 15 of the 31 cars entered and faces competition from three other tire makers in the two-hour event.
Race Day: "For the race on Saturday, we expect the conditions to be similar to Friday qualifying, but a little further evolved. The IndyCars use a lot of soft compound tires for qualifying on Saturday afternoon so it will also be a matter of whether the sun has made track slick later in the day or it is starting to cool and increase grip."
The interaction of the different tire compounds used by the various tire companies in the five other race events at Long Beach do not always interact well. "Sometimes the track is slick early in an ALMS session as our cars scrub off the other compounds and start putting our compounds down."
"The track itself has four different surfaces of concrete, asphalt and combinations, including several bumps as cars transition from one section of track to another," said Koenigstein. "I expect our teams to use soft or medium compound tires to maximize grip, stability under braking, corner entry, mid-corner grip and power down." Who adds with a sly grin, "unless of course it rains!"
Michelin Teams: Fifteen of the 31 cars are Michelin fitted entries, including the five Le Mans Prototype Challenge class entries. Michelin technical partner teams at Long Beach include LMP1 class: #6 Muscle Milk Aston Martin; in LMP2 class: #33 and #055 Level 5 Motorsports Lola/Hondas; in the GT class: #3 and #4 Corvette Racing; the #44 and defending Long Beach GT champions #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche; #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari and the #01 and #02 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferraris.