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Shell Resurface Le Mans Race Circuit

First published in the January 2017 issue of Quarry Management as Making Tracks

The Bugatti circuit of Le Mans starts afresh, thanks to Shell Cariphalte Racetrack

After more than 12 years of heavy use, the Bugatti Circuit of Le Mans has undergone renovation to replace its top layer of asphalt. Despite the excellent structure of the existing track, the renovation was necessary because of the performance needs of the various races its hosts. Motorcycles, in particular, are sensitive to the change of adhesion offered by the track throughout its lifetime.  

High-stress areas on the Bugatti circuit, such as the Dunlop curve and the La Chapelle and Garage Vert bends, were renovated in recent years, but it was necessary to repave the whole surface layer at this stage to have a homogeneous track surface, eliminating transversal joints.

Ghislain Robert, technical director of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) Le Mans Resort, said: ‘The ability of the track to provide excellent grip in all weather conditions is of paramount importance. This is why we decided to use Shell Cariphalte Racetrack. It provides good adhesion to the aggregates, and offers high drainage for the circuit.’

Thus, the 4.185km surface of the Bugatti circuit was repaved with Shell Cariphalte Racetrack – an asphalt made from a high-performance polymer-modified binder and specially developed for racing applications. It has a strong resistance against deformation and has been used on many tracks around the world, such as Nürburgring and Hockenheim in Germany, and Ferrari’s own Fiorano test track in Italy.

‘Thanks to Shell, we were able to develop an asphalt mix that meets our strict specifications, as well as the requirements of drivers and our high standards as the organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Aside from Shell’s high-performance bitumen solution, we also used a specific type of aggregate that has very high abrasiveness in order to meet the specifications set by tyre manufacturers,’ said Mr Robert.

During the renovation, which was carried out by Eurovia from 10–27 October 2016, more than 50,000m2 of asphalt were planed off and replaced. The new track will provide a better grip and a more uniform surface – crucial factors that enhance the performance of racers in competitions such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Grand Prix of France Moto, the European Truck Racing Championship, and several other French competitions.

The Le Mans circuit is also renowned for being a testing laboratory for next-generation vehicles such as the prototypes that participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

Pierre Fillon, president of ACO, explained: ‘The last time the Bugatti circuit was completely refurbished was in 2004. The track was slightly worn and some parts of the circuit caused discomfort to some riders.

‘This renovation project was entrusted to the expertise of Syndicat Mixte of the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit. In addition to supplying their bitumen expertise, Shell are also the official fuel suppliers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the European Le Mans Series (ELMS).

‘This new bitumen is likely to improve the performance and safety of motorcycles and cars on the track, thus contributing to more exciting races here at Le Mans.’

Health and safety, as well as environmental responsibility are core values for the ACO and the Syndicat Mixte of the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, the project owner. This is why the new asphalt was treated with Shell Bitufresh, a bitumen additive that has been specially formulated to reduce the odour of bitumen during application. For more information visit: www.shell.com.

Vettel praises new track surface at Sepang

Sebastian Vettel was full of praise for the Sepang International Circuit (SIC) ahead of last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix following a repaving of the venue with Shell Cariphalte Racetrack – a high-performance version of bitumen specifically developed for use on racing circuits. 

The Scuderia Ferrari driver and four-time World Champion’s comments came just moments after he walked the 5.543km track with his team ahead of a race at which he has achieved much success, including four victories and his first win for Scuderia Ferrari in 2015. 

Shell have been providing bitumen solutions to the Sepang International Circuit since it first opened its gates in 1998 and this latest upgrade to the track surface began in February 2016 in order to meet the latest FIA international standards and improve corner driveability for the drivers.

Sebastian said: ‘I walked the track and from what I see the surface looks really good. It’s important these tracks are resurfaced regularly in order to offer us the best possible performance when we are racing and to also ensure the circuit is safe. I believe the new surface is a lot smoother and less aggressive, which will help improve tyre wear and provide better conditions for racing in the wet.   

‘Malaysia is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar, especially with such high humidity and temperatures, but the bitumen materials that Shell offer are able to stand up to this as well as the forces of 22 Formula One cars racing around the track.’ 

Professor John Read, general manager for bitumen technology at Shell, said: ‘We have worked very hard to increase the unique quality of the track surface at Sepang Circuit and ensure the performance of the track is optimized for competitive racing. What Shell brings to the table as a bitumen solutions provider is the flexibility to adapt to customized specifications according to the needs of the surface.

‘Sepang is one of the most challenging circuits for us to surface given the extreme tropical conditions which occur in Malaysia, but we are delighted with the outcome and hope it provides a platform for some fantastic Grand Prix racing.’

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