Michelin Teams Have Big Hopes For Petit Le Mans Race
Michelin’s technical partner teams arrive at Road Atlanta for Saturday’s final event of the 2016 with big expectations and diametrically conflicting agendas.
“Our technical partners are powerful, factory linked teams and each has its own agenda and race plan,” said Chris Baker, motorsports director, Michelin North America. “We have worked with each of our technical partners as they developed tire strategies and chassis set-ups that should be well suited for the expected conditions and I fully expect each of them to lead at some stage of the race.”
“The WeatherTech Championship GTLM manufacturer, team and driver titles are all on the line, and the teams that are out of the championships will be all in for the race win and trying to build momentum for next year,” said Baker. “Road Atlanta (2.54 miles) is a popular place for our technical partner teams to test and having a 10 Hour race as the finale opens up a wide array of strategic options.”
Corvette Racing enters Petit Le Mans with pencil marks growing darker on each box of a four item checklist. The first item is another Manufacturer Championship for Chevrolet. The bowtie brigade holds a big 20 point lead over rival Ford and can clinch that title mid-race.
Having opened the 2016 season with GTLM class wins in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R and drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (joined here by Marcel Fassler) can complete a 2016 sweep of the three longest North American races. They currently lead the team and driver standings by 11 points over No. 67 Ford’s Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.
Gavin and Milner also scored the 100th and 101st wins for Corvette Racing at Lime Rock and Road America. Teammates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia took the win at Michelin GT Challenge at VIR and stand third in the championship.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has enjoyed a stunning inaugural season for the Ford GT. Success here in Petit Le Mans, in the form of a race victory, and/or taking the GTLM team and driver championships would be thick icing on a very large 2016 cake. The new Ford GTs have taken the class victory at Le Mans and claimed three wins in the WeatherTech Championship.
Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe scored the first win for the team at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and backed that up with wins at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller (joined by Sebastien Bourdais) celebrated the 50 year milestone of Ford’s 1966 win at Le Mans.
Porsche North America returns to the scene of one of the greatest upsets in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship history, the stunning 2015 overall race victory in the wet by the GTLM Porsche 911 RSR driven by Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, winners of the 2016 Long Beach round.
Teammates Earl Bamber and Frederick Makowiecki arrive fresh from a big victory at the most recent WeatherTech Championship round at Circuit of The Americas.
BMW Team RLL, led by drivers Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner, has a pair of poles (Sebring and Long Beach) and fastest race laps (Sebring and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) in 2016, but is anxious to deliver the first victory for the BMW M6 GTLM.
Risi Competizione Ferrari is literally the dark horse favorite here. After a crushing late race electrical gremlin while leading at COTA, Giuseppe Risi’s Houston based team and drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander are anxious to convert their pace and experience into a win at Petit Le Mans where the team has achieved three victories.
Scuderia Corsa Ferrari returns to the WeatherTech Championship to bolster the Ferrari charge and take on the challenges of the season-ender. Led by drivers Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi, the highly regarded team took the pole and led much of the way at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.