Washington DC: Michelin preview

Bibendum goes to Washington, D.C. Michelin teams head to inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington. Michelin Man Meets DC Race Fans One of the best-known icons in the world, the Michelin Man, will be highly visible at this weekend's Cadillac...

Bibendum goes to Washington, D.C.
Michelin teams head to inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington.

Michelin Man Meets DC Race Fans
One of the best-known icons in the world, the Michelin Man, will be highly visible at this weekend's Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C.. Officially known as"Bibendum", the Michelin Man first appeared 104 years ago, in a poster advertisement. Bibendum was named the #1 Corporate Logo in the World in 2000 by The Financial Times and R.O.B. (Report on Business), who surveyed a worldwide jury of experts in art, communication, architecture and design.

Top Teams Choose Michelin
Michelin and its partner teams arrive in Washington, D.C. featuring the kind of firepower that would make the Pentagon proud. Michelin is the tire partner for the Audi, Cadillac, Champion and Panoz teams in the premier LMP 900 class. The quickly developing Rafanelli Ferrari flies the Michelin flag in the GTS battle, while the Alex Job Porsche, Racer's Group Porsche and Orbit Porsche teams lead the way in the hyper-competitive GT Class.

Winning Big
In addition to their overall race victories at the last five editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Michelin teams have won 31 of the 32 ALMS races held in the series.

Michelin teams dominated the most recent American Le Mans Series event, the inaugural Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake, Wis. two weeks ago taking the overall win, a sweep of the top three spots and a sweep of the GT class.

Ready to Race!
The track at Washington's RFK Stadium may look the same to the fans all weekend, but racers expect it to change quite a bit as the weekend progresses."This is a brand new track surface which means it hasn't been through a race cycle yet," said Herb Johnson, director of motorsports, Michelin North America."We call that a' green' track. The level of grip will change as the as the teams put rubber down. We don't know yet how much it will change, that will depend on the track composition and the weather. Thankfully, we have a lot of experience with new tracks. We brought several different tire solutions (construction and compounds), but there are always some surprises. We will try to be ready for whatever the new RFK track brings. We're excited to be in Washington for a Le Mans Series event," said Johnson.

Backing Johnson up is a team of 21 Michelin engineers, tire fitters and operations managers who are on site with over 1,500 Michelin racing tires to support the 14 Michelin entries at the Cadillac Grand Prix. Michelin dedicates an engineer to each of its teams.

"Make Mine a Double"
Tires will be especially important at this weekend's event in two key areas: acceleration, or what racers call "power down" and track position. How do tires help track position? Unlike NASCAR or IRL competition where the fueling and tire changes take place simultaneously during a pit stop, ALMS rules preclude any mechanical work, including tire changes, during re-fueling. As a result, teams can save nearly 20 seconds during a pit stop by taking on only fuel but no tires. This is called"double-stinting" a tactic often used by Michelin teams to gain or extend position on the racetrack.

Track surfaces, temperatures and team strategies will determine when, and if, teams are able to double-stint tires during the race. Teams will generally change tires when they change drivers. Yellow caution flags also play a role in strategy.

"The key to double-stinting the tires is to maintain the tire performance for the second stint," said Herb Johnson."Some teams change tires because the new tires are faster than the used tires. The time that you would save in the pits by not changing tires can be lost by slower lap times on the track. Michelin teams have frequently run their fastest lap times late in the second stint."When that happens, our engineers know that we have the right combination," said Johnson. Some Michelin teams at past events have been able to triple and even quadruple stint tires with no drop in performance, an incredible team advantage.

Blast Off
Temporary circuits, like RFK, place a premium on acceleration. Teams want their cars to blast out of the slow corners, but the cars have so much torque that they can roll up the asphalt like a loose carpet. From a tire standpoint, the challenge is balancing grip, which comes from mechanical elements of the car's suspension, with the tire grip. The enemy is excessive wheel spin that overheats and prematurely wears tires.

Leader of the Pack
It isn't always easy to be the leader, but Michelin and its teams seem to like it up front. Despite competition from five other tire companies, Michelin teams enter this weekend's Cadillac Grand Prix, having led 5,487 of the 5,685 laps (96.517 percent) in ALMS competition since the series began in 1999. The last time that another tire company led an ALMS race came in September 2000, 17 races ago.

Segways Are Here!
Michelin engineers having been using the Segway HT Human Transporters to make their appointed rounds from the Michelin compound to their respective teams, the pit area and back to Michelin for the past three races. The Michelin race engineers have been very pleased by the Segway HTs and are surprised at how easily they can be used even in crowded race paddock areas. Michelin developed the tire and wheel assembly for Segway Company and is the sole tire supplier for the revolutionary new device.


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Series ALMS
Drivers Alex Job