A FULL-SCALE DRESS REHEARSAL FOR MICHELIN'S RAIN TYRES! Water, water everywhere-- The full Le Mans 24 Hours circuit probably hasn't seen as much rain as the quantity that fell today for a long, long time. However, the delicate and changing ...
A FULL-SCALE DRESS REHEARSAL FOR MICHELIN'S RAIN TYRES!
Water, water everywhere-- The full Le Mans 24 Hours circuit probably hasn't seen as much rain as the quantity that fell today for a long, long time. However, the delicate and changing weather conditions didn't prevent the No8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP-Michelin of Lamy/Sarrazin/Wurz from claiming the fastest lap of this year's test-day with a blistering time of 3m 22.222s. The day also enabled Michelin to gather a significant amount of valuable data concerning its range of wet weather tyres.
Sarrazin's quick lap was posted early in the afternoon when the track was drying and enabled the No8 car to finish the day ahead of the No9 Peugeot of Montagny/Klien/Zonta. The fastest Audi R10 TDI was that of 2007 winners Biela/Pirro/Werner who were third with a time of 3m 26.678s.
The unsettled weather and heavy showers seriously complicated matters for the teams. Indeed, the preliminary test-day's two four -hour sessions were interrupted by numerous incidents which brought out the red flags as drivers faced delicate track conditions in terms of grip and visibility. There were frequent spins and crashes, including that of the No7 Peugeot (Gene /Minassian/Villeneuve) which had set the fourth quickest time but which ended its day in the guardrail through the Karting Esses. The car, driven at the time by Marc Gene, was partially destroyed.
The poor weather and the sheer quantity of rain turned the programmes of those teams looking to profit from the day to prepare for the race (June 14-15) and qualifying (June 11-12) on their heads.
However, one sure thing to come out of the day is the promise of a thrilling clash between Audi and Peugeot in the LMP1 category. That said, the Judd-engined Pescarolos put in strong performances, too, with the Primat/Tinseau/Treluyer car claiming the sixth best time (3m 33.939s) ahead of their team-mates Collard/Bouillion/Dumas. Just behind them in today's order was theCourage-Oreca-Judd driven by Ayari/Duval/Groppi.
The No34 Porsche RS Spyder of Van Merksteijn/Verstappen/Bleekmolen) finished on top of the timesheets in the LMP2 category, while the No009 Aston Martin in the hands of Brabham/Garcia/Turner showed that it has every intention of targeting victory in the LMGT1 category. The experienced driver line-up of Salo/Melo/Bruni dominated the LMGT2 fight in their Ferrari F 430 GT.
All the teams made the most of the weather to work with the different rain tyres available, putting their slicks and qualifying tyres to one side.
Matthieu Bonardel, Manager of Michelin's Four-Wheel Competition Programmes
What is your conclusion following today's test?
"It wasn't a routine test by any stretch of the imagination! The numerous red flag interruptions and extremely delicate track conditions made it a very complex day. The track obviously changed a great deal over the two sessions, forcing the teams to respond as best they could. Not all the teams made the best tyre choices because different people were trying different solutions while discovering the conditions as they went along. At times, certain portions of the track were wet and others were dry, too. It was very complex, especially since it was the first time that we have been out in the wet since the beginning of the season."
Did today's conditions affect your bid to gather data concerning your range of slick tyres round this highly specific circuit?
"No, because we have already collected a great deal of data concerning our slick tyres this year. The different LMS and ALMS rounds that have taken place so far have all been on the dry, and we have already run our full range of slicks. OK, it wasn't easy for the teams to make the ideal choices all the time, but we were very pleased with the performance of our different rain tyres today."
Putting the conditions to one side for a moment, the cars are clearly quicker than ever in 2008--
"I think that's today's other big lesson . Compared with last year, the pace has really quickened and we've seen the lap times tumble . In the wet, in addition to the quantity of water on the track and drivers' own impressions, the best indication we have to advise the teams when to fit full wets or intermediate tyres continues to be the stopwatch. Depending on lap times, we have thresholds that tell us when to make such or such a choice, across the full spectrum of conditions, and we have four different wet weather tyres. We have changed our benchmarks compared with 2007 because we have seen that in the rain, and with equivalent grip, we are between 10 and 15 seconds a lap faster. The same goes for our slick tyres, although we had little time to run them. In 2007, we were lapping in the three-thirties, and now we are down to the three-twenties."