Goodyear teams looking for victory in 2002 Le Mans.
LE MANS, France (June 12, 2002)-- Every June the eyes of the motor racing world turn to France for the annual running of one of the world's greatest races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This year is no different and, as usual, Goodyear will be there.
"Every tire company in the world wants at least a class victory in this race," said Bob Shaffer, marketing manager, sports car racing.
Since winning its first overall victory in the endurance classic in 1965, Goodyear has been a major factor here. This year, four cars will carry the Goodyear name into competition, including the defending champion of the GTS class, Corvette Racing.
The starting grid will include two Corvettes, one driven by defending champions Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Oliver Gavin, and the other by Andy Pilgrim, Franck Freon and Kelly Collins. Fellows, O'Connell and Gavin teamed to win the 50th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this season.
Goodyear's other two cars are in the LMP 900 class for the most powerful prototype cars. One is the factory Riley and Scott Racing entry with drivers Marc Goossens, Jim Matthews and Didier Theys. The other is the Kondo Racing DOME driven by Masahiko Kondo, Ian McKellar and Le Mans native Francois Migault.
The other Goodyear team at Le Mans will be the group of Goodyear engineers and technicians, from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, will work with the race teams through the event.
"Our job is to guide them as to what they should select from our menu," said Tony Freund, team leader, advanced engineering." During the final hours, you have to be very careful because you are tired. Near the end, you are constantly asking yourself,' Have I done my sums right?' You are constantly rechecking."
"This is one long, grueling day," said John Taube, race tire engineer, sports cars."Even more at Le Mans than at Daytona because, at Le Mans, you have a warm-up session in the morning and you have to be there. The race starts later in the day at Le Mans, (4 p.m.) than at Daytona, so when the night portion is over, you still have a long way to go. At Daytona, when the night is over, the race is almost over."
The Goodyear teams will have a choice of tires for each type of weather and track condition. The constantly changing nature of the climatic conditions at Le Mans make it necessary for the tiremaker to provide about six compounds for each entrant.
"For most cars, we bring a qualifier and three race compounds," said Chris Johenning, lead engineer, sports car racing."Because the region is known for light, misty rains, an intermediate rain tire is required in addition to a full rain tire."
Corvette driver Johnny O'Connell said,"We're confident that Goodyear has a great tire for us and, as last year at Daytona and Le Mans proved, the rain tire is awesome."
Sports car racing is one arena where the transfer of technology from the track to the street is pretty obvious.
"If you look at today's Eagle race tires, you can see tomorrow's evolving Eagle street tires," said Bob Toth, marketing manager of auto tires. "They share a heritage. Shorter sidewalls, wider treads, high-speed certifications and even mold shapes that make our street Eagles perform, all have their roots sown in racing."
However, many technological transfers go unseen, according to Stu Grant, general manager of global race tires, because,"hidden inside are new advances in materials, fibers, reinforcements, polymers and construction techniques."
Whichever Goodyear tires the teams choose, the brand has a winning history at Le Mans.