Monza: Michelin preview

Double stints at Monza? The 2008 Le Mans Series celebrates its second round of the season on Sunday at Monza, having got off to a great start three weeks ago at the Catalunya 1000 kilometres on the well- known Barcelona circuit. The same ...

Double stints at Monza?

The 2008 Le Mans Series celebrates its second round of the season on Sunday at Monza, having got off to a great start three weeks ago at the Catalunya 1000 kilometres on the well- known Barcelona circuit. The same favourites will be fighting over the podium places for the super-fast Monza 1000 kilometres this weekend, with yet another tightly-fought duel in store between Peugeot and Audi on the legendary Italian circuit near Milan.

Having won LMP1, LMP2 and GT1 at the last 1000 kilometre race in Catalunya, Michelin is aiming to repeat this triumph on the occasion of the Monza 1000 kilometres, which will take place this weekend at the famous track to the north of Milan.

Even so, the French tyre manufacturer is taking nothing for granted - as the Monza circuit has a number of particular characteristics that are notoriously demanding on tyres. Matthieu Bonardel, in charge of four-wheeled motorsport at Michelin commented: " Monza actually has quite a lot in common with the full Le Mans circuit, including chicanes, heavy braking and some fast corners. But that's really where the similarity ends. The surface at Monza is much more abrasive and there are fewer corners in total, which also mean there are fewer cycles of acceleration and braking. The secret lies in finding the ideal balance between the reactivity of the front tyres in the chicanes and decent traction coming out of them. At the same time, you also need good lateral grip in fast corners such as the famous Parabolica. "

It's not surprising then that the Italian circuit poses a real challenge for Michelin's engineers. " It's an extremely complex circuit for us, " adds Matthieu Bonardel. " This is especially the case for the rear tyres, or to be even more specific, the left-rear tyres on the prototypes. There's never a huge amount of wear at Monza but the sustained high speeds mean that durable tyres are needed, while corners like the Parabolica require a perfect balance. At the same time, drivers also need a sharp response from the front tyres in order to avoid getting understeer through the chicanes. The drivers' requirements tend to change a bit from testing to racing: during tests they want a very responsive front tyre but that can compromise the rears - which the teams usually favour when it comes to actually racing. "

At Barcelona, during the first event of the season, the prototype teams changed tyres at every pit stop, even though the 2008 Michelin tyre range was designed to cope with two or even three stints during a race. " Last year, the teams just got into the habit of changing tyres at every pit stop, " explained Matthieu Bonardel. " So when they got to Barcelona at the start of this year, they didn't even bother to question it. The process of tyre changing has developed so rapidly now that the teams don't lose a chunk of time at every pit stop any more. Nonetheless, they will have to get used to double stints later on in the season at the Le Mans 24 Hours. There, doing double stints will gain them quite a lot of precious time - simply because of the number of stints that make up the whole race. I suppose though that after seeing how well our 2008 tyres lasted in Spain, some of the teams will consider double-stinting when planning their strategies already. So in conclusion I think we will see some teams doing double stints on the same set of tyres in Monza. It's also an excellent place to try out this type of tactic in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours. "

The 1000 km of Monza on Eurosport : Follow the start of the race on Eurosport UK from 11h45 to 12h15 (English time), and then a 26 minutes resume of hte best moments, at 22h00.

Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge The Prize Ceremony for the 1000 km of Barcelona will be organize Friday April 25, 2007, at 7 pm at the Michelin Hospitality in the paddock, Monza Racetrack,

Results for the 1000 km of Barcelona :

Cat             No       Team                                                     Total

LM GT2 96 Virgo Motorsport 40
LM P2 34 Van Merksteijn Motorsport 39
LM GT2 95 James Watt Automotive 38

-credit: michelin

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Series European Le Mans