Laguna Seca insight: A gripping tale

May 3, 2015

Laguna Seca insight: A gripping tale

May 3, 2015

tudor_laguna_01may_15_practice_012The fastest cars may not necessarily prevail in today’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

tudor_laguna_01may_15_practice_008Michelin engineers believe that the key to success could well be tires, specifically how consistently they perform over a full stint.

“This track presents some of the biggest variances in lap times during a stint of any circuit that we visit,” said Ken Payne, technical director Michelin North America.

“Last year, BMW made an extra pit stop to keep fresher tires on the car and got all the way back up to second place,” Payne noted. “This year, with all four classes competing, that would be a more difficult strategy due to the extra traffic.”

Grip is always a challenge on the fast 2.238-mile, 11-turn MRLS circuit that features some major elevation changes and sandy runoff areas.

“It isn’t that the track gets hot and the tires start sliding around as much as it is that the track surface is starting to wear down into the base layers, so the contact patches of the tires are not in full contact with the pure track surface,” he said.

The track surface temperatures are not expected to change significantly during today’s two-hour, 40-minute race.

“The weather and sun have lightened the asphalt through the years so that the track reflects rather than absorbs heat,” Payne explained.

tudor_laguna_01may_15_practice_019Today’s forecast suggests fairly cool track temperatures for the race, which begins at 1:05 p.m. local time. The race will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 at 4:00 p.m. ET.

The track temperature was 88 degrees at the 11:00 a.m. start of practice on Saturday, and 82 degrees during qualifying at 5:00 p.m. Michelin engineers report that the highest track temperature that they have measured this week was only 101 degrees, while the coolest was a chilly 58 degrees during this morning’s warm up.

Corvette Racing will be looking for its fourth consecutive GTLM victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Corvette Racing team leader Gary Pratt said, “A lot of credit for that success goes to Michelin. We were never able to get good grip here until we switched to Michelin.”

With the top seven qualifiers in GTLM bunched within a 0.453-second spread, the car with the most grip for the longest time may well prevail.

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