A STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN Michelin is seeking to make history this weekend, as the first tyre company to win a Formula One grand prix in Turkey. Although World Rally Championship events take place in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, this year's...
A STEP INTO THE UNKNOWN
Michelin is seeking to make history this weekend, as the first tyre company to win a Formula One grand prix in Turkey.
Although World Rally Championship events take place in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, this year's Turkish GP will be the first race of its kind in the region. It will be staged at the brand-new, 5.340-kilometre (3.318-mile) Istanbul Park circuit, which lies to the east of the nation's capital, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Bridge.
Hermann Tilke - the man responsible for the recently-introduced facilities in Bahrain and China - designed the track, which features a number of dramatic elevation changes.
No Turk has ever competed in a grand prix: at present, the country's most eminent driver is Can Artam, who is contesting the GP2 Series - F1's ante-chamber.
Turkey will become the 26th country to have hosted a world championship grand prix and - for the time being at least - Istanbul Park will join a list of 10 circuits with a single grand prix to their name.
The others are Avus (Germany, 1959), Casablanca (Morocco, 1958), Dallas (United States, 1984), Donington Park (Europe, 1993), Le Mans (France, 1967), Monsanto (Portugal, 1959), Pescara (1957), Riverside (United States, 1960), Sebring (United States, 1959), Shanghai (China, 2004 - although it will stage its second later this year, from October 14-16).
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
"The Istanbul Park track presents tyre manufacturers with an extra element of challenge - yet another during a season that has already generated its fair share. We have prepared for this grand prix with exactly the same methods we used for the new tracks in Bahrain and Shanghai last season."
"In the first instance our engineers paid an inspection visit, during which they were particularly keen to analyse the track surface characteristics. The second stage was to correlate this information with the results of the simulation tests we have conducted in conjunction with our partner teams."
"Our analysis shows that the circuit is densely asphalted, with thickly coated stones that make the track look particularly black. At the start of the weekend cars will be running on neat tar and conditions are likely to evolve quickly as more and more laps are completed. In some ways it is a similar situation to those we faced earlier in the season at Barcelona and Montreal, where the circuits had been freshly - and totally - resurfaced."
"As far as the track layout is concerned, it looks very appealing with a number of elevation changes and a blend of fast and slower corners plus a long main straight. In theory, average lap speeds should be relatively low. Aerodynamicists face the biggest headache as they try to figure out a set-up that generates sufficient downforce for the slow-speed corners without overly compromising straight-line performance."
"When we race at a new track for the first time, it is best to taketyre compounds with a slightly broader operational spectrum than we usually choose, in order to minimise any risk of error. We also have to bear in mind all the meteorological conditions that might confront us. In fierce heat, for instance, the circuit's dark complexion will absorb bright sunlight more readily - and that will send track temperatures soaring."
Jenson Button, B*A*R-Honda
"I have driven around Istanbul Park in a road car and it looks very exciting, with some long, high-speed corners and a spectacular blind crest at Turn Three. It's always nice to go to new circuits and the main thing in Turkey will be to make sure we are physically well prepared. This is one of only three anti-clockwise venues on the calendar, along with Interlagos and Imola. That will place an unaccustomed load on our necks - and the elevated cornering speeds will intensify the effect."
"It doesn't take long to learn new tracks, although it's not something you can replicate properly beforehand using computer games. They teach you which way the corners go, but there's no substitute for getting out there in a Formula One car. On a technical level, however, the team and Michelin have done lots of simulation tests and these tend to be uncannily accurate. In the past Michelin has produced excellent tyres when we have visited new circuits, such as Shanghai and Bahrain last season, so I am confident we'll be in good shape."
Michelin, a better way forward in Turkey
For Michelin, just as it is for more than 250 French companies (including Renault, Carrefour, Danone, etc.), Turkey is a priority market and Pierre Desmaret, Michelin's General Manager for Africa and the Middle East, says that the tyre giant is likely to commit significant resources there in terms of both investment and staff over the coming years. Meanwhile, it's in Turkey that the firm launched its new slogan 'Michelin, a better way forward'.
This year, Turkey will host a round of all the major motor sport disciplines in which Michelin is involved. In addition to the WRC and the Rally of Turkey, a Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Istanbul in August, the new FIA World Touring Car and FIA GT championships will visit the country in September, MotoGP action is scheduled for the end of October, while the Le Mans Endurance Series will wrap up the season at the beginning of November. And late-June will see the fourth round of the 2005 Cross Country Rally World Cup, the Rallye d'Orient, kick off its west-east traverse of the country from the shores of the Bosporus.