Michelin hour 18 report

MICHELIN ON WETS ! Steady rain gate-crashed the Sarthe party at 4 :23 this morning, forcing all the cars to pit for wet- weather tyres. Tom Kristensen then went into attack mode in his Audi, quickly catching and passing Tom Kristensen, who lost...

MICHELIN ON WETS !

Steady rain gate-crashed the Sarthe party at 4 :23 this morning, forcing all the cars to pit for wet- weather tyres. Tom Kristensen then went into attack mode in his Audi, quickly catching and passing Tom Kristensen, who lost six seconds to his rival on the first flying lap. The Audis are looking much more at home in the rain with the number 2 car in the overall lead. In LMP2 the number 34 Porsche RS Spyder continues to dominate. In the GT1 class the Aston 009 is still out on its own, while in GT2 the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT is calling the shots.

For Michelin and their 4-wheel competition manager Matthieu Bonardel, the right choice of rain tyres can be a tricky thing.

" All the teams have pitted to change tyres, " he explains. " You need to second-guess what the weather is going to do and make the right choice. And that's no easy matter, because there are a number of rain tyres on offer and they each have their own performance window, and the track can change quickly as well. We offer advice, but the teams make up their own minds and they have gone in a number of different directions. As soon as the rain came Audi went straight to full wets, whereas Peugeot tried intermediates at first before going to harder tyres then full wets. In the GT and LMP2 classes we saw the full wet spec working very well in the early stages of the wet race, until six, but after that they got better results from a rain tyre with a harder compound and that has helped them close the gaps little by little. "

How do you account for the difference in performance between the various rain tyres ?

'That's simple enough : when the track dries the tyre loses grip because it starts to move around and go off. A harder compound, on the other hand, holds on better on the drier parts of the track, though you need to back off a bit on the wet. What we are seeing is a performance variation depending on how much water is on the track. It's neither really wet nor really dry, so the trick is to find the tyre which copes best with all those conditions on every section of the track. If the track keeps drying out we will move to a different option of rain tyre or intermediates. "

So Michelin has to keep coming up with new answers ?

" That's right, and how glad we are we brought those 8000 tyres with us ! A wet track is always a bit of a problem, because it cuts a tyre's life by a factor of two or even three. Not having truckloads of tyres to play with, the teams will also have to manage what they've got quite carefully. Some of them will work through the entire range of tyres we brought to the 24 Hours. "

-credit: michelin

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Tom Kristensen
Teams Risi Competizione