Michelin interview with Director Frederic Henry-Biabaud

6 questions to Frederic Henry-Biabaud, Michelin Motorsport Director "Le Mans is our home battlefield!" Here we are, on the eve of the most famous automobile track in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hours. For Michelin, this weekend holds a very ...

6 questions to Frederic Henry-Biabaud, Michelin Motorsport Director

"Le Mans is our home battlefield!"

Here we are, on the eve of the most famous automobile track in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hours. For Michelin, this weekend holds a very special significance because we have just won ten consecutive victories in the 24 Hours and there is no doubt that this winning streak will continue. As I have already had the opportunity to emphasize, Le Mans is our battlefield. It is a fascinating test, as much for the public who are expected to turn out in great numbers this year, as it is for the participants - there, also, the battle for first place is already showing itself to be very exciting on the eve of the 2008 edition. For us, this test allows us to form

Whoever talks about "endurance racing" inevitably thinks of Le Mans. What memories will you take away from last year's Le Mans 24 Hours?

Frederic Henry-Biabaud: "The Le Mans 24 Hours is clearly a huge eve nt on the endurance racing calendar. And last year we won the race and notched up our 10th consecutive victory! It was a very good result for Michelin.

"It was also an extremely memorable race thanks to the arrival of Peugeot to compete against Audi. For us, that presented an additional challenge, as we needed to make sure that we supplied those two teams - as well as everybody else - with absolutely equal equipment. It was essential to be completely impartial with everybody.

"Looking back on it, I believe that we gave all our partners excellent products and impeccable service. It was a dream result for us - not just in terms of visibility, but also in terms of credibility..."

Is winning Le Mans essential for the Michelin brand?

Frederic Henry-Biabaud: "It's our home battlefield! Losing at Le Mans is out of the question. It's true that we supply a lot of teams, but in the end it's those teams that have chosen us, because we give them good tyres and top quality service. At the Le Mans 24 Hours, it's important to have a tyre partner that knows a bit about the race. Nonetheless, every year we are careful not to become complacent: all it takes is one false move for our reputation to suffer. Le Mans is one of the high points of the endurance racing season."

You've taken 10 consecutive victories now, but isn't that quite easy when you supply more than 60% of the field?

Frederic Henry-Biabaud: "It's my genuine wish that we had some more competition, but at the same time we cannot hold ourselves back. Le Mans is not just a way of demonstrating the value of our products; it's also a way that we can prove to our partners that we are capable of meeting even the most extreme challenges. We never asked for a situation whereby we hold a virtual monopoly. I really hope that the increased media coverage endurance racing is getting now will lead to some more people getting involved - especially other tyre companies."

Does Michelin see endurance racing as a long-term project?

Frederic Henry-Biabaud: "Our involvement is peren nial, and I think that it will actually intensify. The thing that we need to assess is the rate of progress we are making on a global scale. We need to increase the profile of endurance racing and that could take time.

"We're involved in endurance racing here at Michelin because it's our battle ground- and we hope that other companies will come and try to take us on. Endurance racing matches the philosophy of all our products and it's a discipline that corresponds perfectly with our brand values: performance, consistency, and longevity, whether that's over 100 or 100,000 kilometres."

Michelin has invested heavily in the Le Mans Series, organising some special promotions and the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge. Will you continue with these initiatives?

Frederic Henry-Biabaud: "We will certainly continue with the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge. We're working with the ACO to give the formula greater visibility, and increase the profile of the award. The plan is to continue our activity, re-shape it slightly, and maybe do a bit more. The Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge rewards the crew that has travelled the greatest distance at the highest speed using the least fuel.

"We believe that all aspects of energy are important. As a tyre manufacturer, we thought that it was important to show how with the right package, you can save energy. It's not actually a tyre challenge at all. In fact, at last year's Le Mans 24 Hours, we awarded the prize to a team that wasn't even using our tyres! Our reasoning behind the award was to demonstrate that it's possible to believe in energy-saving without compromising performance. That's also what competition is all about!"

Why 24 Hours of Le Mans are so special?

Frederic Henry-Biabaud: "I'had put Le Mans as thing apart from everything else. It' a focal point of our relationship with our partners, as well as being a very popular event in its own rights. Actually, one of the big target we want to achieve this year is to further enhance our credibility amongst manufacturers through success on the race track. For us, the endurance world championship is made up of the LMS, the ALMS and the Le Mans 24 hours. They are part and parcel of the same thing - and we need to win them all!"

-credit: michelin

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Series Le Mans