Michelin Helps Ford Continue Its Victory Roll At Watkins Glen
Michelin technical partner Ford Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) backed up its stunning GT victory at the recent Le Mans 24 Hour race, by winning the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTLM class pole, setting fastest race lap and scoring an impressive 1-2 finish here at Watkins Glen.
Led by Ford CGR drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, Michelin and its technical partner teams from Ford CGR, BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, Ferrari and Porsche successfully took on the challenges of a six hour race on the very fast, hot, challenging, newly repaved 3.4 mile Watkins Glen International circuit.
“The new track surface is nearly three seconds per laps faster than last year, but it quickly absorbs heat,” said Ken Payne, motorsports technical director for Michelin North America. “Track temperatures jumped from 93 degrees at the start to 120 degrees at mid-race, so some of our teams were switching to our hot temperature tire as the race progressed and several ran their fastest laps in the final hour,” said Payne.
BMW Team RLL’s car No. 25 of Dirk Werner and Bill Auberlen leapt to the font at the start and battled the Ford GTs for the entire race. “We had a great fight with the BMW for the first five hours of the race,” said Westbrook.
“They were quicker at certain stages and we were slightly quicker at other points. It was a great fight and it wasn’t until very late in that race that we were finally able to edge away,” said Westbrook.
CGR Ford’s Le Mans winners Joey Hand, (co-driving with Dirk Mueller), made the decisive pass for second place in the final minutes after a long and spirited battle with BMW’s Bill Auberlen (Dirk Werner) who finished third.
Stuck deep in the factory filled GTLM field, the 2016 GTLM class championship leading No.4 Corvette Racing of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin rallied late to claim a fighting fourth place finish over the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.
“All three of our Ford GT wins have come since Monterey, (also won by Westbrook and Briscoe), when we started running the tires that Michelin designed for Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship,” said Westbrook. “They have helped us to get on this roll.”
For Briscoe, the weekend was especially exciting as he left the circuit early Friday to be with his wife, Nicole, for the birth of their daughter, returning late Saturday for the driver’s meeting.
The next stop for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil1 SportsCar Grand Prix at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next weekend (July 8-10).