Michelin teams race to big victories at ALMS Monterey

May 14, 2012

Michelin and its technical partner teams may be re-writing the book of conventional racing wisdom after a pair of big wins by Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda and a 1-2 by Corvette Racing  here today at the American Le Mans-Monterey.   

Conventional racing wisdom suggests that racing on “soft” compound tires provides extra grip, but compromises longevity and consistency. Michelin and the overall race winning Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda team would strongly disagree.

Racing the new 2012 Michelin “street soft” race tires, the Bernicia, California-based Muscle Milk team and drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr followed their victory on the streets of Long Beach with a convincing home track win on the permanent 2.238 mile circuit here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

What’s more, they double-stinted each of their three sets of Michelin race tires to rack up 242 laps in the race and seven laps in qualifying for a total of 557 miles on one of the softest compound tires Michelin has ever raced in American Le Mans Series competition.

“Being able to run the Michelin street softs and then to double-stint them was one of the keys to our speed,” said winning co-driver Klaus Graf. “The track doesn’t provide a lot of grip and it changes a lot through the race and gets dirt and sand kicked up on it. We are very happy. Michelin has worked closely with the team, Honda and the drivers to develop new tires, including street softs. It shows both Michelin’s technology and commitment,” said Graf.  

Corvette Goes 1-2 in GT
Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner recently scored his first ALMS victory at Long Beach. The 26 year-old driver from Leesburg, Virginia liked it so much that he and co-driver Oliver Gavin backed that up with another victory here in Monterey. Gavin, one of the most successful drivers in ALMS history with 36 wins, made the winning pass by tucking to the inside exiting turn 11 to take the GT class  lead with 59 minutes remaining in the six-hour race.  

Corvette Racing teammates Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia made it a perfect day for the New Hudson, Michigan based team and for Michelin, completing the 1-2 finish with Magnussen’s pass in traffic in the final 20 minutes.

Unlike the Muscle Milk Honda prototype which used Michelin street soft tires, the production based Corvette Racing team chose a medium compound option and the latest Michelin “tall” front tires, to provide the speed, consistency and handling necessary to deal with traffic and the exceptional competition in a class where qualifying positions were determined by a few thousandths of seconds. The top seven positions in the GT class finished the six-hour race within 10.08 seconds.

Dempsey Debut
The race marked the ALMS P2 class debut for Michelin’s newest technical partner team, Dempsey Racing. Patrick Dempsey and co-driver Joe Foster were in third place in class before encountering late race problems and dropping to fourth. The race was the first in a high tech Prototype class car for both Foster and Dempsey. The pair were backed up by former ALMS race winner Jonny Cocker.

PC Firsts
Former NASCAR phenom Colin Braun made the pass of the race with just two laps remaining as he and former IndyCar star Bruno Junqueira boldly split a lapped GT Challenge class car with Braun taking the advantage and the first ALMS PC class win for himself and co-driver, CORE autosport team owner Jon Bennett.  

Michelin Comments:
“We congratulate our friends at Muscle Milk Pickett Honda Racing and Corvette Racing on their great success at one of America’s premier race circuits and especially want to recognize Colin Braun and Jon Bennett on their first ALMS wins,” said Silvia Mammone, manager motorsports, Michelin North America. “We also want to recognize the entire Dempsey Racing team and the energy and excitement they add to the series as well as the tremendous effort that went into having a brand new car showing such promise at its first race.”