Tire Insider – Dijyano – Long Beach

April 17, 2010

Tire Insider – Dijyano – Long Beach

April 17, 2010

A Michelin tire waits for the pole winning Aston Martin Racing Lola Aston Martin. Photo credit: Rick Dole

We asked John Church, the Michelin race tire engineer assigned to the overall race pole winning Aston Martin Racing team to give us his perspective on today’s American Le Mans Series race here in Long Beach.

“This is the shortest race of the year, just 100 minutes long, so I will give you the basic part first,” said Church, an Indiana native now living in the Greenville, S.C. area.

“The baseline is that we are running the Michelin “street soft” tires,” Church said. “The Michelin prototype teams have used these to win every ALMS street course event since they were introduced in 2008 and yes, from a tire wear standpoint we can do the entire race without changing, but the team could decide to change tires when we change drivers.”

ALMS teams are not allowed to change tires while refueling.

“It takes about 10 seconds to change tires, but changing drivers takes as long or longer than refueling, so at least theoretically, you can change tires without losing much time,” Church said.

Church and many of the Michelin race tire engineers see ALMS teams looking at several strategic options. One option is to pit early, as soon as the team reaches the point where it could finish the race without a second pit stop. That early stop could include a tire change, or conversely, skipping the tire change to improve track position.

Another option is to go as deep into the race as possible before stopping, hoping to reduce the amount of fuel needed and the time required for refueling.

“Basically, you work back from the checkered flag,” Church said. The key will be the number and timing of any yellow flag caution periods.

Race conditions are expected to be slightly warmer than for Friday’s practice and qualifying. A higher track temperature combined with the changes in track surface from today’s support series and Indy Car qualifying may produce slightly slicker conditions at the start of the event. If so, cars are likely to encounter some oversteer in the early stages of the race. ALMS cars must start the race on their qualifying tires.

Engineers report very little pickup on the tires during Friday’s practice and qualifying.

“The key to the race is track position,” Church said. “The winning prototype here last year did not change tires. If we have to choose between leading the race on used tires or coming from behind on new tires, I would rather be the leader.”

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