Q&A: Introducing Tony Ménard, Part 1

January 22, 2020

Q&A: Introducing Tony Ménard, Part 1

January 22, 2020

Tony Ménard is the new director of motorsport, Michelin North America. Michelin Racing USA caught up with Ménard ahead of the 2020 IMSA season, which begins this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Q: I understand that you have endurance racing in your blood from Le Mans.

TM: “When I was a kid, I grew up in Le Mans near a village called La Chartre sur le Loir. There, there’s a place called Hotel de France. That has been used since the mid-‘50s by Aston Martin first, which they discovered as not just their headquarters but the place where the racing teams stayed during the race.

“When I was a kid at the end of the ‘70s, it was a place Porsche was using, then at the end of the practice during the week before Le Mans, the guys were driving with the race cars on open roads from the track to this hotel! And that was being 35 kilometers away from the track!

“Every evening at the end of the practice session, I carefully listened to the noise on the road with my father, and we said, ‘Father, please, we need to go to the hotel!'”

“It’s a pity because I lost all of them, but I had tons of photographs of Jacky Ickx and Derek Bell!  Justin (Bell) told me when he was a kid he went to the same place, and his next Le Mans, he’ll probably stay in that same place. As I will probably stay in my mother‘s home which is one km away from this place.”

Q: Your first IMSA race was actually at Canada last year. Can you discuss the process and build up over the last several months as you have prepared for your new role?

TM: “I think what I would say is that the first months were for me a great opportunity to be in observation mode. Not only to look after what Michelin is doing, but also understanding what is racing in North America… what are the specifics, both for Michelin and IMSA but also for BFGoodrich and desert off-road racing. It was about better understanding the context and doing that with the support of Chris (Baker) being in a place and so well-connected.”

Q: How does Michelin learn from racing in IMSA?

TM: “IMSA represents a great opportunity for us to test our tires and knowledge and develop a solution in a demanding environment. Thanks to the different categories we have in IMSA, we have a set of vehicles that is extremely diverse from prototypes to TCR. It’s a wide scope to cover in demanding conditions. So it’s really a good opportunity to complement what’s done in other parts of the world with Michelin racing.”

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