Michelin shines at wet Petit Le Mans
Michelin and its technical partner teams swept the top seven positions overall and all three ALMS class victories at the ninth stop of the 2009 American Le Mans Series season. Slated for 10-hours/1000-miles, the race was ended midstream by heavy rains and flooding at the 2.54-mile Georgia road circuit.
While the rains put a premature end to a great battle, the rematch of Peugeot and Audi, with some Oreca and Acura spice, made the Prototype battle at the 12th Petit Le Mans worthy of the hype. Audi ace and Petit Le Mans defending champion Allan McNish delivered a message early, sweeping through the pair of front row starting Peugeots to claim the lead at the damp start.
The Audi battle with the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans winning Peugeot team then shifted back and forth in the changing track conditions with the number 08 Peugeot Sport 908HDI FAP turbo diesel ultimately leading its team car and the two Audis when the rains finally stopped the event. The Peugeot victory, with drivers Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin, is the first major American race won by a French manufacturer in nearly 90 years and ended Audi’s nine year win streak at Petit Le Mans.
The French based Oreca squad finished fifth, while the dedicated Patron Highcroft Racing team finished sixth after destroying their original car in a spectacular crash on Thursday and building up a new car in the paddock.
Scoring its second win of the year and the biggest in Mazda’s ALMS history, the Dyson Racing Mazda Lola of Butch Leitzinger, Marino Franchitti, and Ben Devlin claimed LMP2 class honors. The win, the first at Petit Le Mans for Mazda, makes it the first Japanese manufacturer to have won both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.
Today’s victory is the 11th consecutive win at Petit Le Mans for Michelin.
A perfectly timed call by the Risi Competizione Ferrari team put them on wet tires just before the final rains arrived to complete a rare triple crown of the GT2 class with victories at the three major sports car events of 2009. In the past 16 months, the Houston based GT2 team has scored class wins at the last five sports car “majors”, including the 2008 and 2009 editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the 2008 and 2009 Petit Le Mans; and the 2009 running of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Porsche once again nibbled at the edges of an historic 100th ALMS class victory with the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder taking third in the LMP2 class and the Farnbacher Loles Porsche finishing third in GT2.
“Today’s race was a great test of teams, drivers, and technologies, “said Karl Koenigstein, the Michelin ALMS technical team leader. “The changing conditions had everyone on edge, and the close competition puts extra pressure on every lap, every pass and every decision. It was major challenge to keep the cars matched up to the track as the conditions went from wet to dry and back to wet. We would like to congratulate our technical partners from Peugeot, Mazda and Ferrari on their success and thank all of our partner teams.”