Tire Insider – Dijyano – Mid-Ohio

August 7, 2010

Tire Insider – Dijyano – Mid-Ohio

August 7, 2010

Lee Willard, Michelin tire engineer for Corvette Racing. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Lee Willard, the Michelin race tire engineer working with Corvette Racing, is a great example of the Michelin “race to learn, race to win” approach to motorsports.

A 25-year Michelin veteran, Willard is an Ultra High Performance (UHP) tire development engineer working to develop Michelin tires with Porsche, BMW, Corvette and Viper. He helped lead the Michelin tire development for the Corvette ZR1 and subsequent replacement market tires for C5, C6 and Z06 Corvettes. “My job is helping to take everything that we see and learn here back into the technical centers and to use it on the tires we are developing for consumers,” said Willard.

Here are his race morning comments for the two-hour 45 minutes Mid Ohio Sports Car Challenge.

The Track:

Officially, the track here is 2.238 miles long and it is all about handling. There are five hard right-handers that try to scrub the left front tires right off the car. This is not an especially high horsepower track although you will need some speed to get through traffic.

The grip level is pretty good. We haven’t had rain and the rubber is building up, but the track layout is very rough on tires. The run from turn 4 to turn 8 includes elevation changes and is really hard on the left front tire because it has no time to recover.

The Set Up:

To go fast here at Mid Ohio takes a sophisticated set-up. The teams are all working with camber, toe, and caster to squeeze every tenth of a second possible out of the car every lap.

Everyone is working to develop a set up that gets rid of mid-corner under-steer and snap over-steer at corner exit. You want to watch out for graining and try to get even wear aspects smoothly across the entire surface. The set-up is the key to tire wear.

We have good set ups on both of the Corvettes and we saw that in qualifying when Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 Corvette ran very fast and consistent times lap after lap.

Keeping the cars stable under braking is important, too. You need the car to be stable at the entrance because it is going to fight under steer in the middle of the corner and snap over steer coming out.


We are expecting about 85 degrees as the ambient (air) temperature today with track temperatures between 100 and 110 degrees. The Corvettes are working very well in those conditions. We expect it to cool off a little bit as the race progresses.

Tire Options:

The nature of the track pretty much demands an asymmetrical car set-up and tire choice. The right rear tire is barely touching the ground in some corners and the left front is heavily loaded for an extended period. The Michelin GT teams have lots of options and we can change up during the race during based on the situation.

The Corvette team and Pratt & Miller have a great approach to using both cars to prepare for the race. When testing starts, they put the two cars on different paths and then converge on a set up for the race.

The Competition:

We ran well in qualifying to end up third and fourth. The Risi Ferraris were super fast and they surprised us a little bit in qualifying. They are always tough and they have both cars starting up front. The Flying Lizard Porsche with Patrick (Long) and Joerg (Bergmeister) is always super and they don’t make mistakes. The BMWs were fast in practice but dropped off a little bit in qualifying. This is their home track and they will be fast in the race.

Corvette Racing

The Corvette ZR1s made their first race in GT2 here at Mid Ohio last year so we are starting our second time through the circuits. We have learned a lot about the cars and about the competition in GT2. Corvette Racing has a very strong core and they are very hungry. The Corvettes haven’t won yet this year and I think we have a good shot today.

Race Strategy:

Johnny O’Connell will start the No. 3 Corvette and Olivier Beretta will start the No. 4 Corvette. We plan to do the race in two pit stops but depending on yellows and track position, there could be more. Track position is important and tire wear, especially on the left front will determine if we run extended stints.

The keys to winning this race are going to be car handling, track position, race strategy and no mistakes.

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