Michelin takes to the track for its 12th FIA GT campaign It's the British circuit of Silverstone that has the honour of hosting the curtain -raiser of this year's FIA GT Championship on April 20. Michelin has claimed no fewer...
Michelin takes to the track for its 12th FIA GT campaign
It's the British circuit of Silverstone that has the honour of hosting the curtain -raiser of this year's FIA GT Championship on April 20. Michelin has claimed no fewer than 24 GT titles since the creation of the series in 1997. The 2008 campaign is expected to deliver yet another thrilling contest in both categories, with the promise of an epic showdown between Ferrari F430s and Porsche 997 RSRs competing on different tyre makes.
So, who will join Sir Stirling Moss and Graham Hill this year on the illustrious list of past Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy winners? The modern-day version of this century-old fixture, which once counted towards the Sportscar World Championship, has been a qualifying round of the FIA GT Championship since 2005. Last year's encounter saw Thomas Biagi and Mika Salo take the spoils with the Team Vitaphone Racing-run Maserati MC 12/Michelin.
The German outfit, which has won the GT1 crown on three occasions, will actually be looking to make it a hat-trick at Silverstone since it also won the 2006 race with Bartels/Bertolini, a pairing that has reformed this year at the wheel of the N1 Maserati/Michelin and which is once again likely to challenge for top honours this time round. Team Vitaphone Racing profited from the winter break to run a three-day test programme at Estoril, Portugal, which enabled it to sample the full range of dry and wet weather tyres produced for the series by Michelin. "After this test, we continued to work on our rain tyres, and that could prove invaluable at Silverstone where the conditions are often overcast," says Matthieu Bonardel, Manager of Michelin Competition's Four -wheel programme. "As is the case every year, our partners will be able to choose from an all-new range of slicks and rain tyres from the start of the season."
The official test session organised in spring-like weather in the middle of March at Monza, Italy, suggests that we can look forward to another fantastic year of motor sport in 2008, with six cars boasting very similar levels of performance. The best lap of the test was posted by Christophe Bouchut in the Corvette C6.R/Michelin ahead of the Aston Martin DBR9/Michelin of the newly-founded British outfit Gigawave Motosport. "Michelin equips the majority of the GT1 title favourites, although it will be interesting to see how the Michelin-shod Larbre Competition Saleen S7 fairs against the othe r Saleens competing on rival tyres. And I think we can look forward to a fierce fight, too, in the GT2 category where the field is split between Michelin's partners and those of its rival," continues Matthieu Bonardel.
The ongoing Porsche/Ferrari clash
The GT2 category will see Michelin work with nine cars, namely six Ferrari F430s and three Porsche 997s, while five F430s will compete on Italian rubber. "The FIA GT Championship is one of the last remaining series that permits direct competition between different tyre firms. With identical cars running on different brands, you really get to see the true performance of the tyres. At the same time, this rivalry enables us to improve our preparation for key fixtures like the Le Mans 24 Hours and also develop a range of competitive, durable, safe customer-spec products for our partners in a variety of competitions," adds Matthieu Bonardel. The 2008 season promises to stage some exciting battles between the GT2 category's top teams and drivers.
During the official FIA GT test at Monza, it was the Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari F430 that had the edge, but will that still be the case at Silverstone?
Silverstone Circuit: 5.141km
Gerard Bombled (Endurance and FIA GT Programme Manager, Michelin) "With its long, fast corners that make huge demands on tyres, Silverstone is perhaps the finest venue of the season. If the weather stays clear, the medium compound is the most suited to this circuit. But the weather is very often fickle here and, if it rains, our partners will have the choice between two wet weather tyres, with different compounds depending on how much water there is."
Michelin will take 1,400 tyres to Silverstone, while six Michelin technicians will be in attendance to assist its partner teams.
FIA GT tyre regulations (excluding 24-hour and one-hour races)
Pre-meeting testing is not permitted at circuits visited by the championship. A maximum of four sets of slicks is allowed per weekend. Before the start of free practice, two sets (A & B) are nominated for free practice, qualifying and warm-up.
Before the start of qualifying, two further sets (C & D) are nominated. At least three 'C' tyres and one 'D' tyre must be on the car for qualifying, the start of the race and for the first two laps. Only 'C' and 'D' tyres can be used for the race ('A' and 'B' tyres c an be re-nominated 'C' and 'D'). There is no maximum figure for the number of rain tyres that can be used (minimum 'sea to land' ratio: 25%).
Tyre warmers are permitted.
A maximum of two mechanics may change tyres.