ELKHART LAKE, WIS. (August 10, 2015) - Michelin debuted a new race tire especially developed for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race here at Road America and the record book may need some time to recover.
Porsche North America led a stunning display in the GTLM class qualifying as 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl Bamber smashed the former class record by 1.4 seconds and Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Risi Competizione Ferrari’s Giancarlo Fisichella and also bested the former mark by more than 1.1 seconds.
Bamber and the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR stormed out to a nearly 10 second lead in Sunday’s race before the sole caution flag of the two-hour, 40-minute race appeared. Meanwhile fellow Porsche 2015 Le Mans winner Nick Tandy came from the back of the field in the No. 911 Porsche and prevailed in a long duel with Fisichella to join Bamber at the front of the factory dominated GTLM class at mid race before taking a 1-2 finish for the German manufacturer.
In the process, Tandy broke the Road American GTLM class race lap record by a staggering 2.478 seconds with a 2:02.789 clocking. All eight starters in the class bettered the old mark.
“In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) Series and at Le Mans, tires cannot be changed during refueling,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsports for Michelin North America. “Teams in WEC and Le Mans can save 15-20 seconds on a pit stop by skipping the tire change. As a result, we focus on developing tires that deliver a very high level of performance over extended runs. At Le Mans we target three full stints (fuel tank runs) for our GT cars and four stints for our Prototype technical partner teems.”
By contrast, TUDOR Championship teams are permitted to change tires while they refuel. As a result most teams change tires on nearly every pit stop, bringing different car set ups and race strategies into play. The new MICHELIN® tire concedes multi-stint tread life to deliver quicker lap times of one full second or more.
The two factory Porsche entries and the Risi Competition Ferrari of Fisichella and Kaffer seemed best able to take full advantage of the new MICHELIN single stint tires. A split of strategies saw Kaffer emerge between the two Porsches on the final pit stop. While Tandy’s co driver, Patrick Pilet, pulled away to their second consecutive victory, Kaffer heroically fought off Porsche’s Joerg Bergmeister until the final corners before the Porsche edged through for a 1-2 team finish.
The GTLM Class championship leaders Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia of Corvette Racing finished fourth followed by BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner.
“Our technical partners have different wheelbases, weight distributions and engines mounted front (Corvette and BMW), amidships (Ferrari) and rear-engine (Porsche), so they come at things from different directions,” said Baker.
“The rain on Friday limited the opportunity for our teams to fully test the tire here, but the GTLM teams are extremely good and we are pleased that our new MICHELIN tire helped to improve their performance, said Baker.” “We want our teams here to have the best solutions to meet their needs and we have committed the resources to develop a special tire unique to this championship.”
“That said, we have made no secret that we strongly prefer the WEC - Le Mans pit stop rules, as being safer, more technically and consumer relevant, less costly to teams, a simpler transition for American teams entering Le Mans, and more environmentally responsible. That position hasn’t changed, but our teams now have a new option and today they put it to very good use,” said Baker.