PEUGEOT SPORT PAYS A VISIT TO THE MICHELIN FACTORY
Yesterday (Wednesday, December 3) saw Peugeot Sport's management staff and six of the drivers who raced for the team in this year's Le Mans 24 Hours travel to Clermont-Ferrand for a visit of Michelin's production facilities. The day gave them an opportunity to see how the tyres on which they compete at circuits across the world are made.
The tour began with a visit to the Michelin 'tyre school' where they were shown the fundamentals of tyre design before being given a chance to try their hand at producing a tyre themselves and laying down the different plies. After that, they were shown how the competition workshop operates and met with the staff who spend all season supplying the drivers with the highest quality products possible. All the visitors left the factory impressed by the extreme attention to detail that goes into the production of every tyre.
"Until now, we have only ever been confronted with the finished product," said Peugeot Sport Director Michel Barge. "I had no idea how complex tyre production was and how much savoir- faire went into making sure we were given the very best tyres at each race. Today's visit gave us a chance to see all the groundwork that goes into adapting each Michelin competition to the different cars. It was a very spectacular discovery."
"It's nothing short of haute couture," commented Peugeot Sport's Team Manager Serge Saulnier. "There were so many interesting things to discover, and I think the biggest surprise was seeing all the craftsmanship that goes into the production of competition tyres. I expected the factory to be more automated, but the expertise of the Michelin operators is incredible; they are so skilled. Seeing how important the way the different plies are superimposed has shown me why the Michelin technicians want so much information and feedback from our drivers and technicians about how the car feels and handles. It was very instructive and the lesson can only serve to improve our working relationship in the future."
"It's been fascinating to see how complex competition tyre production. I already had a rough idea, but it's been great to see how it all functions at first hand. It was nice to see the reaction of the drivers, too, because I don't think they realised how much work goes into each tyre. It was also very educational to see the different phases in the design of a new tyre. I think we will have to repeat the same operation with our future drivers," commented Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport's Technical Director.
"It was very impressive to see how tyres are made," admitted Alexander Wurz who contested the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. "I've actually got a problem now: I won't have the heart to 'maltreat' my tyres in the future! I've got a great deal of respect for the people here and for their work. It was reassuring to see how much care goes into each and every tyre."
Marc Gene, for whom this visit was a first, could hardly believe his eyes: "I have wanted to see how tyres are made for a long time now, ever since I started driving a Formula 1 car with Michelin, in fact. Quite frankly, it's been a magical experience! It showed me more than ever how complex everything to do with tyres really is, from their design to their production, and I now have a better understanding of why the Michelin technicians ask us for so much feedback when we go testing with them."
"I really didn't know what a tyre factory looked like before today's visit. It was great to see how competition tyres are made from A to Z. They are often considered to be little more than black and round objects, and just another part of the car, and we tend to forget the human side. Today gave me a chance to see how meticulous everyone at Michelin is, and how passionate they are about their work: they clearly pay as much attention to detail as we do in our cars at 300kph. That's very reassuring because I have raced on thousands of Michelin tyres in the past and I have never had a problem with them, so I'm obviously admirative of their work. You know, I think I have an easy life as a racing driver and I probably make more mistakes than them," observed Franck Montagny who was humbled by the work by the Michelin operators.
"I had no idea production of a competition tyre was such a manual job," said Stephane Sarrazin. "I was expecting it all to be highly automated. Instead, there were men and women involved at every stage and it's an extremely advanced process! They are like us: they are really meticulous and work to the nearest millimetre. Fantastic... I think I'm going to have to pay more attention to my tyres from now on!"
Nicolas Minassian was particularly interested in the tyre production exercise at the Michelin tyre school and left with the impression of having learnt something: "Today's visit has given me a greater understanding of tyres, that's for sure. I will have more respect for them now because we tend to subject them to a great deal of punishment! I was impressed by the precision of the operators. They take their time and are so meticulous; it was interesting to watch them at work and see them strive for perfection."
Last but not least, Pedro Lamy was reassured by his visit: "I am really glad to have had the chance to see a Michelin factory. It was very impressive to see the precision that goes into everybody's work. I generally don't find it very reassuring to know that certain things are made by hand, but today it's the other way round. And it's even more reassuring to have met the people who make these tyres and the concentration and precision that goes into their work."
"We are delighted to have been paid a visit by our friends at Peugeot Sport. Perhaps the most eloquent testimony to the quality of our association with them was their surprise at the emotion of the Michelin staff as they applauded them at the end of the visit. They said it was them who should be applauding the people at Michelin for all the work they put in during the year, and that's exactly what they did," declared Michelin Competition's Director Frederic Henry-Biabaud.