Nurburgring: Michelin preview

NEW PRODUCTS AT THE NURBURGRING! Following the break in the calendar that came after June's Le Mans 24 Hours and Michelin's 11th straight win on the event in association with Audi Sport, Le Mans Series action ...

NEW PRODUCTS AT THE NURBURGRING!

Following the break in the calendar that came after June's Le Mans 24 Hours and Michelin's 11th straight win on the event in association with Audi Sport, Le Mans Series action resumes this weekend with the fourth round of the calendar at the legendary Nurburgring in Germany. Michelin is ready for this new challenge and looking forward to defending its unbroken winning LMS record.

This year marks the LMS's sixth visit to the modern Nurburgring which is situated close to the infamous Nordschleife that twists its way through the Eifel Mountains between Trier and Cologne. The drivers face almost 190 laps of this extremely demanding 5.148km track, while the difficulty for Michelin consists in determining the ideal combination of front and rear tyres to help the cars find the best balance possible.

The circuit
Length: 5.148km

Matthieu Bonardel (Director of Four-wheel Competition, Michelin):

"The Nurburgring has always been a challenge for Michelin because of its cocktail of extremely tight turns and relatively slow average speeds; approximately 170kph. It doesn't really pose any specific problems, but it is quite tough on rear tyres because of the numerous places where drivers accelerate hard out of slow corners. On the other hand, it is far easier on the front tyres. That said, the track surface doesn't give much grip, so getting heat into the fronts can be difficult. This leads to understeer, which in turn can produce wear as a result of the car sliding.

"Basically, the soft compounds have a tendency to wear very quickly, whereas the harder options don't deliver sufficient grip."

"Meanwhile, the amount of grip that is available can evolve in the course of the race, leading to differences in lap times of up to maybe three seconds! Not to mention the fact, of course, that the temperature can fluctuate from one extreme to the other here in the Eifel Mountains, even in the middle of August. All these parameters only serve to complicate the job we face."

The tyres

Matthieu Bonardel (Director of Four-wheel Competition, Michelin):

"We will most probably use a combination of soft and medium tyres, with the latter likely to hold for two stints.

"To optimise the balance of their cars, drivers may run different compounds front and rear. For example, to combat understeer, they might be tempted to run soft tyres at the front and mediums at the rear. This technique can effectively help front-end grip without producing excessive wear at the rear. "Tyre options could well alter in the course of the race, too. The cars traditionally tend to qualify using softer rubber which they also run for the start, before switching to medium tyres as more and more rubber gets laid down onto the track surface. They then tend to swap back to the soft compound for the race's closing stages.

"We have seen in the past that the Nurburgring can become particularly slippery in the wet. Unlike S pa, Monza and Le Mans, this is a relatively short track and it dries quite quickly, so we need to have a full range of wet weather products on hand ranging from very soft tyres to others aimed more specifically at drying conditions in order to be able to offer the best compromise should the weather be showery.

"In an ideal world, the teams wouldn't have to modify their set -up too much so as to be able to switch easily from dry to damp conditions."

New

A certain number of new products will be on hand at the Nurburgring because of Michelin's ongoing bid to take its range forward with a view to being able to respond to the different needs of its partners.

Matthieu Bonardel (Director of Four-wheel Competition, Michelin):

"For the LMP2 cars, we will have an extra-soft compound which has already run in America. Following its positive results there, we have decided to make it available for the European races, too.

"There will also be new products for the GT1 category. Compared with the initial range, we will have a softer and a harder compound. These 'extreme' choices have enabled us to broaden our spectrum of uses in order to have just the right product as the temperature varies and as a function of the different amounts of rubber deposited on the track'ssurface.

"Finally, in GT2, which we contest with commercially available tyres, our different teams will be able to profit some new developments which will be available for the first time at the Nurburgring."

The Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge

The Nurburgring sees the 2008 Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge continue. This challenge is based on the fuel consumption of the cars as a function of their average speed. The winning crew of each race will be invited on the LMS podium to receive the Michelin Energy trophy. The "Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge" championship leader is easily identifiable by the number "1" decal visible on his car.

New in 2008, the chassis which totals the highest number of points of the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge championship will win an official entry to the 2009 Le Mans 24Hours. After the first three rounds, the provisional classification is:

<pre> POS CAT NO TEAM Catalunya Monza Spa TOTAL 1 "LM"P2 27 Horag Racing 37 38 40 115 2 "LM"P2 34 Van Merksteijn Motorsport 39 40 34 113 3 "LM"P1 2 Audi Sport Team Joest 31 31 33 95

-credit: michelin

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Series European Le Mans
Teams Team Joest