“Le Mans in a way is what drives us all. It’s the hardest race: night, day, hot, dirty. It’s one race, one year and one winner.” So said Tom Kristensen in 2013, at the start of a great short documentary by Michelin called “24 Hours: A Matter of Seconds.”
Made in conjunction with Audi, the video followed the team through the full 2014 Le Mans, a gripping race (which we blogged live on Ferdinand), when the lead Audi lost 45 minutes due to an electrical problem, leaving only one Audi car in contention for the win. Fending off a strong race-long challenge from the Toyotas, Kristensen’s Audi took the chequered flag after 24 hours of racing.
This made it nine wins for Kristensen at Le Mans: an all-time driver record. Porsche has gone to the next level: taking outright victory at Le Mans 16 times. But motorsport is a team effort, and racing cars are nothing without good rubber. Michelin tyres have claimed a mighty 22 Le Mans wins. I’m surprised that no one at Michelin has worked out how many miles that would be, driven at 200 mph or more, but no doubt that Michelin is a premier motorsport competitor and no doubt it cares about winning.
This year, Michelin’s Le Mans videos focus on Porsche. The latest video, “We Are Racers” – which Michelin has kindly allowed Ferdinand to share ahead of its official release – is challenging at first watch but it grows on you. No surprise to see Webber given headline billing as first driver on camera, followed by Hartley and then Marco Holzer, but the star of the show is Vincent Barthe.
Over a dramatic jazz soundtrack, tyre tech Monsieur Barthe is credited as Porsche’s ‘rain master’, delivering the 911s safely through torrential rain to victory at Silverstone and helping the 919 LMP1 hybrid to claim a podium first time out. “The battle isn’t just between the racers,” says Barthe. “You have to fight the weather too: you have to beat it. I used to be a sailor, so I don’t mind challenging weather conditions.”
I subscribe to Michelin’s motorsport feed on Youtube as I enjoy the authenticity of their motorsport videos. No hard sell on “race tyres driving road tyre development”, no deep voice-overs or blockbuster soundtrack, just a real racer’s grasp of the spirit of motorsport, and plenty of slow motion footage, showing what the tyres endure through the toughest of corners.
“I don’t want to see how tortured the tyres look at full speed through Eau Rouge and Raidillon,” said Audi’s Allan McNish at Spa last year, when Michelin brought the first-ever SLICK wet tyre to the party. Who knows what they’ll have for P0rsche at Le Mans 2014? We’ll enjoy watching. Here is “We Are Racers”.