Three Teams' titles for Michelin in the 2006 Le Mans Series
Thanks to Pescarolo Sport, Barazi-Epsilon and Larbre Competition, Michelin has succeeded in winning the Teams' title in every one of the three categories in which the French tyre firm has competed this season. The final round of the year at Jarama saw Pescarolo-Michelin's Emmanuel Collard, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Didier Andre notch up a fifth win from five outings to secure the grand slam. Meanwhile, the Larbre Competition Aston Martin-Michelin of Lamy/Vosse/Gardel clinched the LMGT1 title, while the Barazi-Epsilon Courage C65-Michelin made sure of the LMP2 crown.
Following the cancellation of the originally scheduled race at Monza, the last round of the 2006 Le Mans Series took competitors to Jarama, a narrow, undulating track situated on the outskirts of Madrid and around which it is notoriously difficult to overtake. Despite fine weather throughout the weekend, the track's aging asphalt proved slippery and hard wearing for the tyres. Michelin's partners used the full range of slicks available in Spain, from the softest compound for certain GTs to the hardest compound available which was used by a few LMP2 runners.
Despite early pressure from both Courages and despite flat-spotting their tyres in a spin during its final qualifying lap, the N17 Pescarolo-Michelin lost no time paving the way for its fifth win of the year and the machine of 'Manu' Collard, Jean-Christophe Boullion and Didier Andre crossed the line a full four laps clear of its closest chaser. With a score of five wins from five, the domination of the Pescarolo C60 Judd-Michelin has been uncompromising since the start of the season, not forgetting the team's 2nd place at Le Mans. A second podium this year for the Courage-Michelin of Fassler/Primat enabled Swiss Spirit to claim second place in the LMP1 Teams' championship, even though the Swiss car was deprived of 2nd and 3rd gears for much of the race.
As in 2005, the RML-Michelin team's LMP2 title bid was again thwarted in the final kilometres of the season. This year, it was the engine which failed with the chequered flag - and the crown - in sight! Another potential title- winner, Binnie Motorsport, also had a troubled weekend after its Lola-Michelin caught fire in practice. This left the Barazi-Epsilon Courage-Michelin of Vergers/Barazi/Valsecchi to snap up the LMP2 crown, although the category was won in Spain by the ASM of Amaral/De Castra/Burgueno which came home 2nd overall.
On paper, three LMGT1 teams could hope to win the title at the start of the season's finale but it was finally the Larbre Competition-run Aston Martin-Michelin (Lamy/Gardel/Vosse) which picked up the trophy. The similar Modena-run car of Hardman/Brabham/ Garcia was undoubtedly the fastest car on the track today but it was penalised for running an illegal ride-height and was forced to start from the back of the grid. The weekend saw the Oreca-run Saleen-Michelin (Ortelli/Ayari) win the category for the second time this year, while the Corvette C5.R of Alphand/Goueslard/Policand was halted by a broken trackrod
Gerard Aussage, Manager of Michelin's Endurance Racing Programme: "This has been a highly successful weekend for Michelin and we leave Spain with the Teams' title in all the categories in which we have been involved this season. The RML's retirement at the very end of the race was the only negative moment of what was otherwise a very positive race for us. Even though ground temperatures didn't exceed 25C, Jarama proved quite tough on tyres. The asphalt here is both slippery and hard-wearing, but our range was perfectly up to the challenge. Some of our partners opted to double stint, while others preferred to run a soft compound and change tyres at each stop. Michelin rose successfully to all these different race strategies."