Spa: Michelin race report

MICHELIN TRIUMPHS AT SPA, AND GLEANS INFORMATION FOR THE LE MANS 24 HOURS This weekend's Battle of theArdennes produced a superb win for Michelin and the N7 Peugeot HDI FAP of Nicolas Minassian/Marc Gene/ Jacques Villeneuve ahead of the N2 ...

MICHELIN TRIUMPHS AT SPA, AND GLEANS INFORMATION FOR THE LE MANS 24 HOURS

This weekend's Battle of theArdennes produced a superb win for Michelin and the N7 Peugeot HDI FAP of Nicolas Minassian/Marc Gene/ Jacques Villeneuve ahead of the N2 Audi shared by Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat. The top-three was rounded off by the N6 Courage- Oreca which collected its maiden Le Mans Series podium in the hands of Olivier Panis/Nicolas Lapierre who started from the pit-lane.

Michelin also secured victory in the LMP2 category with the Van Merksteijn-run RS Porsche Spyder of Jos Verstappen/Peter Van Merksteijn who crossed the line just 10 seconds clear of the similar Team Horag Spyder.

The French tyre firm was successful in the GT1 category, too, with the Luc Alphand Aventures C6.R driven by Luc Alphand/Guillaume Moreau/Patrice Goueslard. The French trio finished ahead of the IPB Spartak Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Roman Rusinov who proved particularly competitive round the Belgian circuit. Third place in GT1 went to the Modena-run Aston Martin with Tomas Enge and Antonio Garcia at the wheel.

Last but not least, Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 997s claimed second and third places in GT2 for Michelin, while the Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge was won at Spa by the Horag LMP2 prototype.

Matthieu Bonardel (Four-wheel Competition Manager, Michelin):

The conditions:

"The conditions were extremely unusual for Spa with ground temperatures reaching 45C. That obviously isn't what we had been expecting.

"On top of that, the track evolved all the time. It was very aggressive on the tyres to begin but became less hard-wearing and gave more grip as more and more rubber was deposited onto the asphalt."

The start:

"For the difficult conditions at the start, the teams went for either soft or medium compound tyres. It was very interesting to note that our soft tyres were clearly more competitive but they tended to lose out in terms of traction because of the aggressiveness of the track and following the intensive use they were put to during qualifying.

"Meanwhile, the medium compound was able to double-stint from the outset. That is particularly pleasing inasmuch as that is very rare at the beginning of a race, especially when the conditions are so hot with insufficient rubber laid down onto the track.

"We didn'tnote any fall-off in performance, either, even at the end of the double stints. The Oreca LMP1, the Horag LMP2 and certain other teams opted for medium tyres and their choice paid."

The race:

"As the race progressed, we were able to profit from our medium tyres and double-stint without any problems whatsoever. Even though double-stinting would have been possible during the second half of the race, Peugeot and Audi preferred not to take up the opportunity.

"It turns out that the soft option gave a slight advantage, but double-stinting was only possible with the medium compound.

Soft and medium tyres suited to the challenge of the Le Mans 24 Hours: "We were very pleased with the performance of our soft tyres which was very good despite the high temperatures.

"One of the lessons we take away from the weekend, and indeed from previous weekends, is the fact that, for Le Mans, we will be able to use both soft tyres, even in hot weather, and medium tyres which showed that they are capable of climbing to their ideal temperature even in the cold.

"The use spectrums of these two tyres consequently overlap and that will give more flexibility regarding choices for a given temperature.

"We are therefore quite confident for the next race, which is Le Mans itself. We shouldn't be far off the mark."

Hugues De Chaunac (President , Oreca):

"It was a terrific race. We started from the pit-lane - and therefore last - but our drivers fought their way back up through the field to finish on the podium! We ended up splitting the two Audis, which is the best possible message we could have given to Stephane Ortelli who was watching the race on TV!

"After our difficult start to the season, today's result is a fabulous morale booster for the team as we turn our attention to Le Mans. It also speaks volumes for our ambitions for 2009.

"I would also like to thank Michelin because their tyres obviously played a role in our result today. We were able to double-stint from the start and that clearly permitted us to catch the leading group. Everybody was surprised by the consistency and strength of our medium compound tyres; they were exceptional."

-credit: michelin

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Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Tomas Enge , Antonio Garcia , Nicolas Minassian , Marc Gene , Stéphane Ortelli , Peter Kox , Luc Alphand , Patrice Goueslard , Alexandre Prémat , Mike Rockenfeller , Roman Rusinov , Guillaume Moreau