AND THERE WAS LIGHT-- Starting from pole position at Le Mans is the stuff of legend. That's why the leading teams attach so much importance to the business of qualifying. As was the case in 2007, Michelin will be marking up its qualifying...
AND THERE WAS LIGHT--
Starting from pole position at Le Mans is the stuff of legend. That's why the leading teams attach so much importance to the business of qualifying.
As was the case in 2007, Michelin will be marking up its qualifying tyres, so that spectators trackside and on television will know which crews have put on 'quallies' to go for a time, and which teams are in the hunt for pole position. Michelin's competition manager for 4-wheel racing, Matthieu Bonardel, tells us more.
Why are the qualifying tyres marked?
Matthieu Bonardel : "It's in the two qualifying sessions that the magic of the 24 Hours takes over. Those special tyres can be easily identified by people at the track and those following it on television."
How do you go about making tyres visible at 10 at night when they blend into the surrounding darkness?
Matthieu Bonardel : "Michelin applies a white paint to the tyre walls, and then we add a fluorescent mark that gives back energy for about 10 minutes. So when the cars go past, the tyres light up, rather like fireflies. In the 10 o'clock session, as the light fades, the tyre walls are fluorescent. It's kind of magical."
Does every team have these 'marked' tyres?
Matthieu Bonardel : "No, the LMP1 class is the only one to have them. You must remember that quite a few teams in the other classes, and even some of the prototypes are not necessarily in qualifying mode - they may well be doing last-minute set-up work for the race itself. But when the front-running prototypes go past -- at up to 250 km/h in some places -- the sidewalls will put on a light show, and a spectacular one at that."
How many tyre specs do you make available for those two times dessions?
Matthieu Bonardel : "Qualifying is a must for the prototypes (LMP1 and LMP2), but for the GT classes it's more for show and so they don't have qualifying tyres. For the prototypes, Michelin makes two compounds available, one hard, one soft. The first give you two qualifying laps, while the driver can really only get one flying lap out of the softer ones. The harder spec may not have quite the same edge but it does give you the chance to have a second crack at it without wasting precious time coming into the pits."
Is there a big difference in performance between them and the tyres used in the race itself ?
Matthieu Bonardel : "Yes, we put it at around three seconds a lap. But with traffic and fading light, qualifying can still be a tricky business."