Spa: Michelin preview

Having taken another win at the recent Spa 24 Hours, part of the FIA GT Championship, Michelin is now preparing for a new challenge on the legendary Belgian circuit, in the heart of the Ardennes. The latest encounter is this weekend's fourth round...

Having taken another win at the recent Spa 24 Hours, part of the FIA GT Championship, Michelin is now preparing for a new challenge on the legendary Belgian circuit, in the heart of the Ardennes. The latest encounter is this weekend's fourth round of the Le Mans series, out of a total of six that make up the season.

Although the renowned Spa circuit is now half the length it used to be, its character is unchanged and it maintains some extremely challenging technical sections. This epic circuit is a favourite of all the drivers, and it constitutes the ultimate test of their bravery.

For Michelin, the objective is to offer tyres and back-up that is good enough to take its partner teams all the way to the podium. This is no easy task when ambient temperatures at Spa are notoriously variable, with rain capable of the turning the race on its head.

Michelin will offer a wide range of rain tyres for a number of the petrol cars competing, in order to best suit their set up as the track passes from dry to fully wet conditions.

Gerard Bombled, Head of circuit activities, Michelin

"Spa is a very quick circuit and so it is a real test for the tyres. Drivers can encounter a lot of understeer, as the front tyres tend to slide if the car set-up is biased towards the rear. It's therefore essential to find a good balance with the car early on, in order to make sure that the front tyres do not wear out too quickly. Spa is also a very specialised circuit, with two particular places where set-up as well as complete concentration and commitment from the drivers is crucial : Raidillon and Blanchimont. One is a left-hander and the other is a right-hander, but both are tackled at extremely high speed. "

" Spa is far from being your average circuit, technically speaking. A lot of that is down to the constantly-changing weather conditions that are typical of the Ardennes region. Tyre strategy is certainly more important on this circuit than anywhere else. The forces at work on the car are quite high, over quite a long period of time. These forces which are lateral and longitudinal as well as vertical through Eau Rouge make Spa a very demanding track for the tyres, meaning that we always have to keep a close eye on the pressures.

Our objective is clearly to make our tyres last for two stints on every class of car. We will use quite a range of tyres, from soft to hard. The harder tyres will survive two stints more easily, but ultimately they will not be quite as quick as the softs.

Our recent experience in the Spa 24 Hours allows us to offer the GT cars a range of tyres that have already proved their potential in top flight competition.

We can expect to see quite a variety of different tyre choices between the first stint and the end of the race. This is particularly the case at Spa, where ambient temperatures can fluctuate rapidly. As more rubber goes onto the track, the teams will also be able to choose a slightly softer tyre.

Rain can also change things entirely by cleaning the track. Grip will be very marginal over the new section of the circuit if it rains, as opposed to the quite absorbent older asphalt of the rest of the circuit. This means that it will be very difficult indeed to find the right compromise in wet conditions. We will take three different types of rain tyre to Spa, in order to have an answer for every possible situation.

Finally, we will not have to cater for any particular bias towards the left or right, or front and rear of the car, as the characteristics of the circuit make all the forces quite uniform. "

Credit: michelin

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Series European Le Mans