Michelin wins big at VIR
The setting was tranquil, but Michelin and its technical partner teams delivered a powerful message in the first ever American Le Mans Series visit to Virginia International Raceway. The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD/Honda/Michelin prototype scored a dominant race win and Corvette Racing locked up the ALMS GT manufacturer, team, and driver championships in equally impressive fashion.
Starting from the pole, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr sprinted to an early lead and then built a three lap cushion to claim the sixth victory in nine 2012 ALMS races for their HPD/Honda/Michelin combination.
Meanwhile, Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin celebrated Gavin’s 100th start with their fourth win of the 2012 season to lock up the GT manufacturer championship for Chevrolet, the team title for their Corvette Racing team and their driver title as well.
Michelin teams swept the fiercely contested GT class podium as the No. 4 Corvette of Milner and Gavin was joined by the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister and the GT pole winning Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari driven by Johannes van Overbeek and Scott Sharp.
“The first ALMS race at a new circuit is always a technical challenge as you don’t have past data on what the track is going to be like and how it is going to change,” said Karl Koenigstein, Michelin technical team leader. “Our Michelin engineers and technical partners worked hard to make the adjustments and the results reflect those combined efforts.”
Michelin technical partner teams took the overall race pole and led every lap of the four hour race. They also won the GT pole, finished 1-2-3 in the GT race and the six Michelin GT entries (two each from Corvette Racing; Flying Lizard Porsche and Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari) were the only GT cars to break into the 1 minute 47 second bracket.
In the single specification ALMS PC class, CORE autosport team owner Jon Bennett and his co-driver, pole winner Colin Braun took their third PC class win of the season , followed by RR1 Mathiesen Racing’s Rudy Junco and Marino Franchitti. CORE’s Alex Popow, teamed here with Tom Kimber-Smith, finished third to wrap up the ALMS PC Class driver championship in his first season of ALMS competition.
The fast and narrow 3.27-mile VIR circuit challenged teams and drivers to find set-ups that would allow them to be fast on a clear track, confident, and consistent in traffic. Lap times varied by as much as 10 seconds per lap for the winning Muscle Milk Honda. “We had pretty good grip,” said Graf, but there was a lot of pick-up and it was very slick if you got off-line. You just had to be patient, especially if you caught the slower GT cars at the wrong part of the track.”
“The way our Corvette worked under braking was probably our biggest single advantage,” noted Gavin, who now has four ALMS driver titles. The engineers made a small adjustment on the tires during our second stints and that helped us stay good throughout the stint.”
The final race of the 2012 American Le Mans Series, the 10 Hour/1000 Mile Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta will be held Saturday, October 20.