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MAY THE BEST MAN WIN... At last! After months of preparation, the Le Mans 24 Hours will take place this week-end. At Michelin, more than 8000 tyres are ready to roll out the door... COLUMN BY FREDERIC HENRY-BIABAUD, MICHELIN COMPETITION ...

MAY THE BEST MAN WIN...

At last!

After months of preparation, the Le Mans 24 Hours will take place this week-end. At Michelin, more than 8000 tyres are ready to roll out the door...

COLUMN BY FREDERIC HENRY-BIABAUD, MICHELIN COMPETITION DIRECTOR

"Le Mans is our 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 special partnerships with the car manufacturers because it demonstrates not only the quality of our products but, also, our capacity to respond to extreme conditions.

This year, we are equipping once again a great number of cars. Every time, the teams have chosen us because we provide them with excellent products and customized service. The manufacturers know that, at the Le Mans 24 Hours , it is very important to be paired with a tyre partner who has perfect knowledge of the rigours of this race.

However, just because we are equipping all the favourites does not mean that we are going to spend the 24 Hours resting. For us, the challenge is about equipping all of our partners in a completely equitable manner, without any partiality.

In addition, as you will read later in this edition, the phenomenal increase of the performances reported this season has forced us to completely rework our tyres so that they can support the stresses and strains that the 2008 vehicles will impose upon them while, at the same time, retaining the capacity to perform over several stints.

The Le Mans 24 Hours has proven to be a very important venue to demonstrate the capabilities of a company such as Michelin. We spend months actively preparing for this race. We are finally here now and I cannot hide my excitement to see our services tested once again on this legendary track. From this point on, all we can do is to wish everyone an excellent race and, 'may the best team win!'

ZOOM THIS IS GOING TO BE FAST!

EVEN IF MICHELIN HAS WON THE LE MANS 24 HOURS 16 TIMES INCLUDING THE LAST 10 RACES, THIS TEST DOES NOT PRESENT ANY LESS OF A CHALLENGE TO THE ENGINEERS OF THE BRAND THAN THE TESTS OF JUNE 1 WHICH REVEALED THE INCREASE IN PERFORMANCE.

The preliminary tests are usually a very important day for the development of prototypes. Unfortunately, this year, the June 1 test day was seriously plagued by torrential rain. Therefore, Michelin's rain tyres were the stars of these tests. One conclusion arises: performance has increased dramatically this year as pointed out by Matthieu Bonardel, Director of Michelin "4 wheels" Competition.

- What first conclusion have you drawn from the June 1 trials?

- It was a session like no other. It was significantly complicated by the numerous red flags and, above all, by the extremely tricky track conditions which prevailed. The track was constantly changing and the teams have been forced to act and react to this precipitation. The spontaneous choices were not necessarily the best because the drivers were getting used to the situation. Some locations on the track were wet and others were not. It was very complicated. It's the first time since the beginning of the season that we have driven in the rain.

- From the information gathered from the trials, are you going to be using new products for the race qualifications?

- No. The time is much too short. Generally, one manufactures slick tyres right up to the final days before the race. On the day of trials, the teams have, for the most part, selected rain tyres from our stocks but they have also chosen some intermediates and some slicks. Clearly, they have used a little of everything. To manufacture a little of everything is more difficult than to manufacture a lot of tyres of the same type. Traditionally, the trials would take place in April and we always had time to schedule the production run for the race. That is not the case today. Also, will we be forced to precisely reexamine the production trends?

- In spite of the rain, one conclusion can, however, be made: they are moving much faster in 2008. Have you any fears about such dramatic increase in performance?

- Fortunately, this does not disturb us! In dry conditions, we know that they would go much faster. That is the other main lesson from these tests.

With respect to last year, they have seriously changed the pace of the race. They have reported that, in the rain, with the same adherence, they have gained between 10 and 15 seconds each lap. It's the same report for the slicks, even if they have had little time to test them. In 2007, they were running at 3'30'' but since then they are attaining 3'20''.

- Are the teams regularly informing you of their progress?

- The competition between the Audi and Peugeot teams, for example, leads to these advancements in terms of performance. The teams open doors for us in terms of development and the exchange is both lasting and profound. This enables us to forecast trends. In addition, one of the focal points, at the end of last year, consisted only of achieving this progress. In order to gain 5 seconds at Le Mans, they have to put more stress on the tyres which is why we have worked so hard to improve their robustness and we have attained our objectives. The tyres are proving their reliability as the cars have improved in performance.

- What did you do in order to perform your first tests?

- We had no shortage of ideas. We experimented at Michelin on test rigs. We did not try them right away on vehicles. When we thought we had found the right products on test rigs in term of robustness we allowed drivers to test them. This is what took place in Jerez in November 2007 with Audi, Peugeot and Pescarolo. The drivers told us which type of tyres they preferred. We selected the tyres which offered the most resistance as weel as providing a good balance for the car. We therefore managed to obtain an efficient combination. We have, therefore, coated them all with a layer of rubber which provides the fastest speeds and, overall, we have achieved excellent results.

- Do the teams make different choices in terms of tyres?

- We have forced nothing. We only provide advice. They are free to choose soft tyres, hard tyres or medium tyres. All this depends upon the strategies formed by the teams and for the vehicles. At the end of the test session, the teams have chosen different types of rubber. The longevity of each type depends upon track conditions but the differences between the solutions will hardly be seen over the 15 laps...

THE MICHELIN ENERGY ENDURANCE CHALLENGE REWARDS ENERGY EFFICIENCY

THE FAMOUS MICHELIN ENERGY ENDURANCE CHALLENGE WILL BE ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT FOR THE LE MANS 24 HOURS. FOLLOW TWO RACES AT ONCE.

At Michelin our motto is "A better way forward" and this takes all its meaning at Le Mans 24 Hours.

For the complete week of trials, the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge is one of the highlights of the Le Mans circuit, as much for the competitors racing the 24 Hours as for the public.

On the track, first of all, the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge will award a bonus of 10,000 Euros to the first three teams in this classifcation. The challenge rewards energy efficiency which is calculated on the basis of the average race speed and the fuel consumption. The winning team is the one who succeeds in combining performance and energy consumption the most efficiently.

The first three winning teams of the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge will climb the podium to receive the green cap and the trophy dedicated to this classification.

For the public visiting the Le Mans circuit, the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge will be very much a part of the race. At the heart of the village, in the trophy room, its conception will be presented along with the philosophy of the 24 Hours and of the LMS (Le Mans Series) championship. Created by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and the organizers of the "Le Mans Series", the challenge is sponsored by Michelin.

This index, therefore, is also the highlight of the Michelin stand situated in the village.

"In our space, we surely present the Le Mans 24 Hours Michelin prizes, but, also, the way in which Michelin is implicated in fuel efficiency -- and the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge is one example of that", explains Sebastien Meilhaud, Motorsports events and partners relations manager. "The philosophy of the Challenge corresponds to Michelin's philosophy, as demonstrated by the design of the "Energy Saver" tyre which was created to reduce rolling resistance which is a source of up to 20% of a vehicle's fuel consumption. In the stand, we also give 8 responsible driving pointers which, if they are followed, will substantially reduce fuel consumption."

In the stand, the visitor will also find an energy game where two contestants must answer questions about energy efficiency. "We are going to welcome drivers who will play this game and who will explain to the public how the motorsport facilitates the development of technologies for fuel efficiency", continues Sebastien Meilhaud. "We will be welcoming Christian Klien and Marc Gene from the Peugeot team and Olivier Panis from Oreca."

To crown this weekend, the Michelin motorhome, placed in the circuit paddock, will be completely green, and adorned with the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge colours. This week-end, follow two races at once: the scratch ranking and the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge...

All clad in green ...

The Michelin motor-home on the 24 Hours circuit is dressed in the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge colours and emphasizes the importance of this challenge for the Clermont-Ferrand brand.

GLOSSARY LET'S GO SINGING IN THE RAIN!

MICHELIN HAS LINED UP NO LESS THAN THREE TYPES OF TYRES FOR DRY CONDITIONS AND FOUR TYPES OF TYRES FOR THE RAIN AT THE LE MANS 24 HOURS. WE HAVE A RECORD OF FACING UP TO ALL SITUATIONS RANGING FROM SCORCHING HEAT TO MONSOON CONDITIONS.

There are so many types of tyres, how can one choose between them?

Throughout the year, Michelin never ceases to continue optimising its range of wet and dry tyres. The objective at the Le Mans 24 Hours is to choose the right tyre at the right time in order to achieve the best possible relay. The challenge for the Michelin technicians is to anticipate the weather conditions at the start of the race so that the drivers are not forced to return to the pits in order to change tyres.

For dry conditions:

The soft tyre: this tyre is used especially when the temperatures are low. This means that it is the choice which will be made for night laps when the track has cooled down and in the early morning when the temperatures are at their lowest during the 24 Hours.

The medium tyre: this version is the solution which will be most frequently chosen during the 24 Hours. It is a multi-purpose, durable tyre. It provides a relatively large operational window and offers the possibility of completing 1 to 3 relays.

The hard tyre: this type is used in hot weather conditions when the ground temperatures exceed 35 to 40 degrees. It offers the possibility of completing 1 or 2 relays.

For the rain:

Full-wet re-cut: this is used for a swamped track when the conditions are at the limit for the Safety car introduction.

Full-wet normal: this tyre is used in hard rain and when the track is still very wet.

Drying: this solution is used in the case of a humid track which is slowly drying. This tyre uses the same tread pattern as the full-wet but has a harder rubber. It may be a solution in conditions which are alternating between dry and wet since they are multi-purpose. This tyre can help the drivers to avoid having to return to the pits in order to install rain-dedicated tyres.

Intermediate: this is ideal when only a portion of the circuit is in the rain. It deals effectively with the wet portions but, at the same time, it offers great performance on the dry portions, without incurring excessive degradation.

INTERNET ENDURANCE LIVE!

ON THE OCCASION OF THE LE MANS 24 HOURS, MICHELIN LAUNCHES ITS ENDURANCE SITE AT WWW.MICHELINENDURANCE.COM WHERE YOU CAN LEARN EVERYTHING ABOUT ENDURANCE RACING.

For Michelin, endurance is about strategic choices.

Since this discipline lives up to its expectations, the brand has decided to increase its efforts.

Discover the completely new Internet site that Michelin has launched for the Le Mans 24 Hours 2008 at www.michelinendurance.com.

Available in French and in English, this new site is completely dedicated to endurance racing and to Michelin's participation in this discipline.

"The site is designed for the endurance enthusiast as well as for the general public", explains Patrice Bougouin, project manager for this endeavour.

"First-time visitors will find a wealth of information and the previously-initiated will gain a deeper understanding of what the endurance race is about. We hope the site will intrigue visitors and give them a desire to know more..."

In order to achieve this, it has been garnished with excellent graphics, animations in three dimensions, photos, videos, recorded interviews, etc. It provides up-to-date information about the various endurance races in which Michelin is involved throughout the world, including the European LMS and the ALMS (American Le Mans Series).

The site also includes a history of Michelin's involvement in motorsports and links to other company sites. A "must-see"...

WEEKEND OF DREAMS CONTEST

THE "MICHELINENDURANCE.COM" SITE ALLOWS VISITORS TO BECOME REPORTERS FOR MICHELIN FOR THE LE MANS SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP; EVERYONE HAS A CHANCE!

Michelin has decided to offer endurance fans the opportunity to spend a weekend on the inside track.

The operation has already taken place at the LMS 1000 kilometres of Monza and the 1000 kilometres of Spa, and it will be repeated at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Each time, a fan is selected by Michelin to become a reporter for a weekend. He will be asked to create a blog in which he will describe how a race unfolds behind the scenes, what takes place in the background and what the general public never sees. This reporter for a day, with his dedicated technical crew, will also take photos and short videos which will be placed on the www.michelinendurance.com.

In order to participate in the operation during the next LMS races, it is only necessary to subscribe to the site and show ones motivation. Ten candidates for every race will be chosen by the site visitors themselves.

The Michelin jury will then choose a lucky winner amongst this 10 candidates

-credit michelin

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Olivier Panis , Marc Gene , Christian Klien