Michelin race report

MICHELIN'S 11TH CONSECUTIVE VICTORY AT LE MANS WIN COMES FIRST IN EVERY CLASS The Audi Sport R10 TD1 driven by Kristensen-Capello-McNish crossed the line in first place after a heart-stopping finish to this year's Le Mans 24-Hour race. It was...

MICHELIN'S 11TH CONSECUTIVE VICTORY AT LE MANS WIN COMES FIRST IN EVERY CLASS

The Audi Sport R10 TD1 driven by Kristensen-Capello-McNish crossed the line in first place after a heart-stopping finish to this year's Le Mans 24-Hour race. It was the German marque's eighth victory on the Sarthe circuit and the fifth in a row since 2004. Michelin was with Audi every step of the way to this extraordinary result, taking the 17th Le Mans win in the company's history. This latest win is the11th in a row for Michelin, which has not tasted defeat in the Sarthe since 1998.

The 2008 running of the race will go down in history because of the way Peugeot pushed its great rival to the very limit. The changeable weather played havoc with strategies, keeping the final outcome in the balance right up to the chequered flag.

It was a fight to the finish in every one of the four classes - and Michelin came out on top in every one. In LMP2 victory went to the Van Merksteijn-Verstappen-Bleekemolen Porsche RS Spyder; there was more success in LM GT1, where the Brabham-Garcia-Turner Aston Martin 009 was shadowed all the way to the finish by the Corvettes; and in LM GT2, Salo-Meli-Bruni added another chapter to Ferrari's legendary Le Mans history with victory in their F430 GT. Last but not least, there was a superb effort from the Luc Alphand Adventures team, which finished fifth in GT1 - the eighth time in a row Luc Alphand has made it to the Le Mans finish.

They said --

Dr Wolfgang Ullrich: Audi Sport Director

"This year's Le Mans was one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced. We really needed a tyre partner we could rely on to get us to the end of the race. Michelin's people did that superbly for us, supplying a product that was absolutely right, and perfect service to go with it. We work as one with our Michelin technician: he's part of the team, he thinks the same way we do and he did absolutely everything he could to give us the best advice in very difficult racing conditions. So thanks and hats off to Michelin!"

Tom Kristensen: Audi Sport Driver

"A fantastic win ! We knew we had a reliable car that would let us do do long runs, thanks also to Michelin and the great advice they gave us on tyre choice. It was a hard race because things kept changing so much, and every time we made a stop we had to take a punt on the tyres. The technician was able to tell us the right way to go, it was unbelievable. Thanks to Michelin's products, their performance and their durability, even at the end of double stints, we were able to take full advantage of our long runs, and we can all feel very proud of what we have done together."

Allan McNish: Audi Sport Driver

"It was a hard race for everybody but especially for the tyres. In the dry the times were very quick; normally on a circuit like this it's virtually impossible to double-stint when you're lapping in under 3:30. But that's what we did, and the Michelins did a great job. It really gave us a strategic edge. We had to make the right tyre choice at times when it was only some sections of the track that were wet or dry, and that was hard to manage. But there again we looked to our Michelin technician and it was working so closely together that saw us across the line in first place. A big thank you to Michelin - winning at Le Mans is a feeling you don't get anywhere else!"

Rinaldo Capello: Audi Sport Driver

"I've been working with Michelin for some years now so it's no surprise to me that we had such quality products here at the 24 Hours. I know what Michelin's people can do when it comes to supplying outstanding products, and the way they go about the business of racing in general. There was a moment when I wanted to go to intermediates and my engineer wasn't really convinced. In the end I did and it was unbelievable - I had as much grip as if I had been on slicks. Michelin's 2008 range is just fantastic, whether in the wet or the dry, and I kept telling him that! At Le Mans, if you don't have the right tyre at the right time, it can lose you the race. So tyres are absolutely crucial to winning here."

Michelin quotes --

Frederic Henry -Biabaud, Michelin Competitions Director: " Once again we learned a great deal this year with all our partners and it was a difficult race. Looking at the broader picture, we have won all four classes and that's just fantastic. We have every reason to be proud of what we have done, and I would like to thanks all Michelin employees who work hard all over the year to provide the best product for our partners."

Three questions for Michelin 4-wheel competitions manager Matthieu Bonardel:

How would you sum up the 2008 race?

"It's a very positive outcome for us because we won all four classes. All the more positive in that it was a very taxing race, one that brought the full range of available tyres into play. The first partof the race, on a dry track, showed how well our soft and medium tyres coped with double of triple stints in the various classes, while the wet second part of the race meant we had to call on our intermediates and our choice of part- and full-wet tyres. It was a wonderful Le Mans, one where we were able to put everything we learned from testing this season with our 2008 range in the LMS and ALMS series into practice, as well as some other more specific solutions, given that we hadn't had any wet running. It was a very rewarding learning process that will stand us in good stead next time. It was a marvellous race, very tense and exciting - and a very difficult one for all of the Michelin technicians and fitters. Given the way the grip was changing they had to make recommendations about tyre choice as well as managing the pressure or the whole monitoring and fitting process. We are all shattered, but very happy."

So, is the 2009 Le Mans 24-Hour race already under way?

"In the race we were able to show some of our strengths and areas where we have made progress. During this 2008 race our minds were already turning to 2009- you don't need to wait for the chequered flag to start doing that. It's a circuit that poses very specific problems because it's not easy to come and test here, so you have to take advantage of being here to try things that help you come to grips with it. It's all about finding out what works best in each of the classes. Naturally we will have a full debrief, and we should be able to sort out the priorities for the rest of the season pretty quickly. In a general sense we will wait for the end-of-season testing to get ready for the Le Mans 2009 tyres."

Is there one outstanding memory of Le Mans 2008?

"It would have to be Kristensen's incident with one LMP2 and his spin just a few lengths short of the finish line. It just goes to show that in racing it only takes a few moments to throw away an advantage you have worked long and hard to build up. Le Mans is not a easy race to win."

Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge goes to Van Merksteijn Motorsport

By taking out the LMP2 category, the Porsche RS Spyder crew of Van Merksteijn-Verstappen- Bleekmolen not only enjoyed a Le Mans podium, they also received the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge Trophy, presented to them by Michelin's competition director Frederic Henry -Biabaud. The challenge rewards energy efficiency which is calculated on the basis on the average race speed and the fuel consumption.

For the Le Mans 24 Hours the first three best teams earn a cheque of 10,000 Euros.

The 2008 result is: Van Merksteijn Motorsport team, following by Team Oreca Matmut and Team Essex.

-credit: michelin

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Series LEMANS