One of the great names in international sports car racing, Oreca, helped provide Michelin a memorable 13th consecutive victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening race of the 2011 American Le Mans Series and Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
“Michelin dedicates this win to the sports car fans who turned out in record numbers here at Sebring, our technical partner teams who play a key role in our continued success and to our Michelin research centers that create our race tires and then take what we learn and turn it into exciting new tires like the Michelin Pilot Super Sport,” said Silvia Mammone, manager motorsports, Michelin North America.
Racing a year-old Peugeot 908 HDi FAP diesel, the French based Team Oreca Matmut Peugeot and drivers Nicolas Lapierre, Loic Duval and Olivier Panis delivered a flawless performance and an emotional victory for team leader Hugues de Chaunac. They outraced the factory Audis and a pair of new Peugeots, and then withstood heavy pressure from the ALMS champion Highcroft HPD squad to claim one of the biggest wins in the team’s storied history.
“In the world of endurance racing there are really two big races you must win; Le Mans and Sebring,” said de Chaunac. “To win at Sebring is huge because we have won this race by doing a perfect job. We were quick in every condition. Thank you to Michelin.”
Finishing second after a spirited chase over the final three hours was the Highcroft Racing HPD of Simon Pagenaud, David Brabham and Marino Franchitti. The 2009 and 2010 ALMS Prototype champions completed assembly of their latest car just seven days ago, but surged to the lead by mid-race. Finishing third was the pole winning new Peugeot of Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy.
The Audi R15++ TDI of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello finished fourth and the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans champions Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller finished fifth as Michelin technical partner teams claimed the top five places overall.
The 59th running of America’s premier sports car race was held on clear, on a sunny, day before a record crowd of over 100,000 fans at the historic 3.7 mile circuit.
The victory helps crown the launch of the new Michelin Pilot Super Sport ultra-high performance tires and the unveiling of distinctive new signage for the traditional Turn 17 Bridge at Sebring. “The tires were born from endurance racing at places like Sebring and Le Mans, so the Michelin Pilot Super Sport Bridge is really the symbolic link between the pit/paddock and the record crowd of fans in the infield,” said Mammone. “The tires were born from endurance racing at places like Sebring and Le Mans.”
“The first race of the season is always a big challenge,” said Michelin ALMS technical team leader Karl Koenigstein. “There are new cars, new teams and drivers, new rules and new tires. We are very pleased that all of our Michelin technical partner teams were very competitive.”
Michelin was the technical partner of choice for 26 of the 39 open category entrants and 34 of the 56 total entrants.