Michelin Wednesday qualifying report

Another piece in the puzzle After two days entirely dedicated to technical verifications, the 54 cars were finally allowed on the Sarthois circuit of the 24 Hours of Le Mans yesterday for their first...

Another piece in the puzzle

After two days entirely dedicated to technical verifications, the 54 cars were finally allowed on the Sarthois circuit of the 24 Hours of Le Mans yesterday for their first qualifying session.

As soon as the 13,629 km long circuit was officially opened, Audi and Peugeot quickly set a fast pace, driving under 3'30 in the first 15 minutes of the session. At 19h29 Frank Biela with his Audi Michelin n1 realised the fastest time of 3'28301. This was the time to beat until late that evening.

In fact after a violent accident of Lamborghini n53 race direction was forced to red flag the session for 45 minutes, and then at 20h53 when the session reopened it began to rain between Mulsane and Arnage!

The rain progressively stopped during the second part of the session, but the humid conditions did not allow for much improvement in lap times until the Corvettes Michelin switched to their slicks at 23h30. 18 minutes to the end of the session at 23h42 exactly, Stephane Sarrazin driving his Peugeot n8, realised the flying time of 3'27029 and took pole position. Audi n2 did not take long to react with Allan McNish bringing home a splendid 3'27017 at 23h53, going on to sign an even faster time on the next lap: 3'26916.

Stephane Sarrazin with Peugeot-Michelin took the provisional pole position on his last lap at two minutes past midnight with a fantastic 3'26344, beating the 3'26707 performance by Sebastien Bourdais during testing last June 3, 2007.

Matthieu Bonardel 4 Wheel Competition Director
"Yesterday the first qualifying session was disrupted by red flags and the rain. The circuit conditions were very poor with little adherence. We therefore were unable to gather a lot of information. The second session proved a lot better. With the amount of rain that we encountered the teams were able to familiarise themselves with the different types of rain tyres at hand. We were running under drying and evolutionary conditions which allowed us to test several different configurations. This is extremely beneficial for the teams and Michelin, and we were able to progress and identify the right tyre for the right moment. Strategically it is very important not to make a misjudgement during the race. We have to be able to choose the right tyre, at the right moment, and find the best compromise. There is a lot of anticipation involved in our work. For example if there are rain showers, you need to know if the driver is going to be on the circuit one hour or an hour and a half, and determine how the circuit will evolve during this period. Will the intermediate tyres be a disaster if it starts to rain? Will the rain tyres perform well under dry conditions? We constantly have to find answers and react to these eventualities. Yesterday, we were able to work in the same manner as during the dry test days.

Today was indispensable; it was an additional piece of the puzzle which will be very important on Saturday due to the predicted unstable weather conditions. During this session the teams which selected the right tyres at the right time were extremely satisfied. We have always been able to provide the tyre which fulfils their requirements.

Hence the importance of choosing the right tyre at the right time in order to avoid risks. In this respect a Michelin technician has an added value to his role as advisor. It is paramount for Michelin to continue to perfect our experience this evening.

Stephane Sarrazin, Peugeot Michelin
"I took pole position with soft tyres. During my fastest lap, I passed four cars and took a lot of risks, but in order to do a fast lap at Le Mans you are almost obliged to do so. The track started to dry and towards the end of the session we were able to put on slicks. I was extremely pleased with the Michelin tyres performance. Today we are going to concentrate on the race at hand. "

-credit: michelin

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Series LEMANS