Michelin Motorsports press release
The first race at any new venue presents unique challenges for the competitors as they prepare strategies for navigating the course. This weekend, Michelin and its technical partners welcome these challenges as the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) heads to the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix, Sept. 2-3.
Adding to the increased pressure of the first race in Baltimore, competitors are allowed only limited on-track testing prior to the race. They will have no opportunity to test at the two-mile Baltimore Grand Prix temporary circuit prior to the track opening on Friday morning, and track time will be fairly limited before Saturday’s two-hour race.
Michelin technical team leader Karl Koenigstein says, “Racing at a new circuit is always a challenge. We expect that the track surface will change every session as more cars and different series put down rubber and the track heats up through the course of the day. The key is to be able to anticipate the track rather than chase it.”
The ALMS features an open tire competition with four different tire makers. Teams work with a single technical partner but can mix different tire compounds to optimize performance.
“Unlike Sebring or Le Mans, where we have many years of data and tens of thousands of miles of testing and racing, we have lots of questions with very few answers until we can put cars on the track on Friday,” said Koenigstein.
The Michelin engineers know the dimensions of the circuit, the number of corners (12) and radius for each, and the length of the straightaways and the pit lane. They also have historical weather data, preliminary weather forecasts and some simulations to project lap times.
“We know which tires we used and how they performed at the Long Beach street race earlier this year,” said Koenigstein. “What we don’t know is whether the track surface is going to be very smooth or a bit bumpy and how the grip level of the track will evolve over the weekend.”
“We will work very closely with our technical partner teams throughout the weekend to help them have the tire plan they need to match their race strategies,” said Koenigstein. “The competition, especially in the GT class, is incredibly tight. Sometimes it is just a matter of the timing of any caution periods, and who gets the breaks in traffic.”
Despite the challenges a street circuit can present, Michelin has been successful on this type of course. Michelin has taken the overall wins at Sebring and Le Mans for the past 13 and 14 consecutive years, respectively, and has won every street circuit event in the history of the ALMS, including first-year events at Long Beach, St. Petersburg, Houston and Detroit.