Ten wins in a row : Michelin boasts an outstanding record at Le Mans with no fewer than 16 victories on the famous circuit in the Sarthe. And we shouldn't forget that Bibendum was in on the very first running of the race that was to become the...
Ten wins in a row : Michelin boasts an outstanding record at Le Mans with no fewer than 16 victories on the famous circuit in the Sarthe. And we shouldn't forget that Bibendum was in on the very first running of the race that was to become the stuff of legend : in 1923 Michelin supported Lagache and Leonard in their Chenard and Walker Sport entry.
Some 55 years later Michelin was back in business at Le Mans, sharing the success of Renault Sport and the Alpine A442B driven by Jean Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi in 1978. Today, endurance racing for Michelin is still the same extraordinary forcing-ground for research and development that it was back then.
"What fascinates us about endurance racing, "says Michelin Group competitions director Frederic Henry-Biabaud, "is that it presents us with not one but three challenges. First, pure performance, i.e. outright speed; then consistency, with tyres needing to stand up to severe punishment over a long period of time, and lastly sheer endurance -- three basic attributes that have to go together."
Michelin has always numbered major constructors among its partners. In 1989 Michelin's link-up with Sauber-Mercedes proved a winning , as did those with Peugeot in 1992-93 and McLaren in 1995. In 1998 Bibendum and Porsche threw in their lot together on the Sarthe circuit and were first across the line. In 1999 it was BMW's turn to join Michelin on the top step of the podium, then Audi and Michelin embarked on a successful streak in 2000 that carried right through to 2007. The only break in the German manufacturer's winning run came when Bentley won in 2003 - but the English prototype also wore Bibendum boots.
With 10 straight wins behind it, Michelin is back with one aim in mind : winning again and extending that extraordinary sequence. "Le Mans is our stamping-ground," adds Frederic Henry-Biabaud. "There's no question of not winning at Le Mans. It's a compelling event, in philosophical terms as well. For me, Le Mans is not the same as other sporting conflicts. It's a hugely popular event, of course, but Le Mans is also about that fundamental rapport with the constructors."
Roll on victory number 11!