Michelin helped the International Motor Sport Association put a bow on the celebration of its 50th season and an exclamation point on the first season for Michelin as the Official Tire of IMSA at the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Records Across the Board
Outfitted with a range of both MICHELIN® Pilot® confidential and commercial competition tires, and supported by a team of Michelin race tire engineers and motorsport tire specialists, the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge championship competitors broke every class qualifying and lap record, a dozen in all for the weekend.
They then iced the cake with a new Petit Le Mans race distance record, racking up 1,181 miles in the ten-hour race, 22 laps and 56 miles beyond the previous record.
“While we are very proud of the record-breaking achievements, we didn’t come into the season with that as our goal,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America. “It is the positive feedback and close collaboration with our teams this season that has been most rewarding for our Michelin team.”
Celebration of Old and New
A mix of talents old and new within the IMSA paddock showcased their skills in today’s race.
BMW legend Bill Auberlen celebrated his 51st birthday with a dramatic last lap pass to claim the GTD class win, his record tying 60th IMSA class victory. The popular Risi Competizione Ferrari, an independent Houston-based team, returned to competition with the 2019 Le Mans-winning Ferrari factory driver line-up of James Calado, Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi claimed the GTLM class pole and race win. Younger rising stars Pipo Derani, on his 26th birthday, and Felipe Nasr captured the overall win with veteran third driver Eric Curran for Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac.
The 10-hour race marked the final appearance for the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT team which finished second in GTLM.
“Our partnership with Ford is one of our most intimate and transparent in motorsports. We are proud of the work we’ve done with Ford to develop competition and street tires within the GT program. We congratulate Ford on an outstanding history with the Ford GT and we are excited to continue working together on the next chapter,” said Baker.
The race was also the swan song for the venerable Corvette C7.R. Fittingly the 34-car field was preceded on its parade lap by the first public appearance the new, mid-engine Corvette C8.R, which will make its competition debut at the 2020 Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.
To help celebrate the 50th IMSA season, Porsche North America teamed with fellow Atlantans to revive the iconic Coca-Cola Porsche livery for the two Porsche GT Team 911 RSRs.
Signaling a new era at the 2.54-mile circuit, the impressive new, four-story 52,000 square foot Michelin Tower, dedicated just prior to the race overlooks the dramatic final turn and sweep on to the front straightaway and serves as the base for hospitality, media, broadcast, timing/scoring and race control.
The Champions Are Here
Michelin congratulates all the new champions of the 2019 IMSA season, determined this weekend at the track, and celebrated after the race on The Torque Show, presented by Michelin.
In the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, here were the regular season class champions:
· DPi: Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron/Acura Team Penske (Driver/Team), Acura (Manufacturer)
· GT Le Mans: Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthor/Porsche GT Team (Driver/Team), Porsche (Manufacturer)
· GT Daytona: Trent Hindman, Mario Farnbacher/Meyer Shank Racing (Driver/Team), Lamborghini (Manufacturer)
· LMP2: Matt McMurry/PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports
The two Challenge series champions from IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge (GS, TCR) and IMSA Prototype Challenge (LMP3) are below:
· GS: Tyler McQuarrie, Jeff Westphal/CarBahn by Peregrine Racing (Driver/Team), Mercedes-AMG (Manufacturer)
· TCR: Mark Wilkins, Michael Lewis/Bryan Herta Autosport (Driver/Team), Audi (Manufacturer)
· LMP3: Austin McCusker, Rodrigo Pflucker/Forty7 Motorsports
Challenge Series Race Winners
Friday’s appetizer of on-track activity saw three interesting winners in the pair of Challenge series races.
Second generation young drivers Austin Cindric and Seb Priaulx (Multimatic Ford Mustang GT4) won GS and overall in Friday’s MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Fox Factory 120. Class champions Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis (Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR) claimed the TCR victory. Mike Skeen (Gilbert/Korthoff Motorsports Norma M30) won the Prototype Challenge race with a late pass in the Esses.
While this weekend’s races cap off the official 2019 IMSA season, it does not mark the end of on-track activity.
The second Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore runs from November 9-10, 2019 at Sebring International Raceway. The four-hour, non-points race premiered a year ago and provides GT3, GT4, TCR and LMP3 teams a relaxed setting to begin their preparation for 2020 and continue their work with the Michelin engineers and motorsports tire specialists.
IMSA’s 2020 season begins in earnest with the ROAR Before the Rolex 24 test in early January, and the Rolex 24 At Daytona race takes place January 23-26, 2020.
“We are extremely grateful to have been warmly welcomed into the IMSA paddock. From day one, our focus was on providing the race tire product and service that teams expect from Michelin. We congratulate everyone in the IMSA paddock and are eager to get to work with all the teams in preparing for the 2020 season,” Baker said.