A hat-trick for Pescarolo-Michelin?
After visits to the shores of the Bosphorus and the Belgian Ardennes, the Le Mans Series moves on to Germany's Eiffel Mountains for this weekend's Nurburgring 1,000km. So far, the defending champions Pescarolo-Michelin have proved the dominant force in this year's 1,000km fixtures with two wins from the two races contested to date. Can they make it a hat-trick?
Located not all that far from Spa-Francorchamps, where the Pescarolo-Michelin of Collard/Boullion took its second 2006 LMS win two months ago, it's another legendary circuit - the Nurburgring - that will play host to Le Mans Series competitors this weekend. And even though the prototypes and GTs will only be using the 'short' 5.148km circuit and not the world's longest racetrack (22.8km), the action promises to be as thrilling as it is challenging.
"The 5.148km circuit is not all that tough on tyres which are not submitted to big constraints," comments Michelin's Touring Car and FIA GT Programme Manager, Gerard Bombled, who knows the Nurburgring like the inside of his pocket. "The 'open'nature of the track surface gives average grip and isn't particularly hard- wearing. No, the key factor here is the weather. For the moment, the forecast is good but the weather in this part of the world can change in an instant. I've seen some very heavy downpours here, even in the middle of summer!"
For the third round of this year's Le Mans Series, Michelin will equip the cars of its LMP1 and LMP2 partners with Le Mans 24 Hours specification tyres. As was the case in the French endurance race, both the Pescarolo and the Zytek - which won here in 2005 in the hands of Shimoda/Nielsen/Elgaard - will run the bigger diameter front tyres (33/68/18) originally developed for the new diesel-powered Audi R10 and which all Michelin's LMP1 partners were able to benefit from. Apart from the usual evolutions introduced from one race to the next, there is nothing new on the tyre front however for the five LMGT1 cars supplied by the French tyre firm.
So, who will anyone be able to contest the recent supremacy of Collard, Boullion and their Pescarolo-Michelin? The crew of the Judd-powered C60 has dominated the first two rounds of the Le Mans Series - first in Istanbul and then at Spa where the car was forced to start from the pits - not to mention the team's outstanding 2nd place at Le Mans in the wake of new Audi. The opposition is becoming increasingly well-honed however: Zytek-Michelin won the 2005 Nurburgring 1,000km, while the Swiss Spirit-run Courage-Michelin put in a first class performance at Spa, as did the two Courage Competition-entered prototypes, and the Racing For Holland Dome-Mugen can also be expected to be strong in German this weekend.
In LMP2, the MG Lola-Michelin of Newton/Erdos, winners of the category at Le Mans in June, can be expected to cross swords once again with the Chamberlain Synergy Lola, while in LMGT1 the battle promises to be extremely open between the Oreca-run Saleen S7R-Michelin (which scored its maiden LMS success at Spa thanks to Ortelli and Ayari), the Michelin-shod Aston Martins, Ferrari-Michelin and Corvette.