The calendar does not yet read January, but Michelin got a jump on the 2019 IMSA season, where the company will become the official tire of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with a highly successful Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring. A field of 20 LMP3, GT4 and TCR class entries took the opportunity to begin work on 2019 and to preview the tires that Michelin will provide in 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge competition in this non-points race.
"We could not be more pleased with how the Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring played out," said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America. "Many of these teams and drivers had never worked with Michelin and our engineers and motorsport tire specialists. Our tires performed quite well, even in the hotter than expected conditions.
"And the opportunity to start building relationships with the customer racing side of the paddock is tremendously important to us. It was truly satisfying to see those relationships start to develop and grow over the weekend."
ANSA Motorsports captured the overall and LMP3 victory with two young stars. Canadian Roman de Angelis and American Kyle Kirkwood shared the Ligier JS P3. K2R Motorsports’ trio of polesitter Kay van Berlo, Matt Bell and Jim McGuire finished second. Polestar Motor Racing with drivers Katherine Legge, Keith Grant and David Grant. Nate Stacy, Kyle Marcelli and Dean Martin won in GT4 with the Ford Mustang GT4 for Roush Performance/KohR Motorsports.
GMG Racing finished second with James Sofronas, Jason Bell and Andy Lally sharing an Audi R8 LMS GT4. In TCR, Remo Ruscitti and Marco Cirone delivered a win for Mark Motors Racing in an Audi RS3 LMS TCR. Stephen Simpson and Michael Johnson finished second for JDC-Miller Motorsports in another Audi RS3.
What they said
Kyle Kirkwood, driver, No. 13 ANSA Motorsports Ligier JS P3 (overall winner with co-driver Roman De Angelis): "This was my first sports car race. Friday was the first day in the car, and first day with the tires. The tires were amazing. They last the entire race. Michelin and IMSA did a fantastic job putting this event on for the first time. I’ve only done sprint racing, so 30-40 minute races max, and not two hours. I’d never had to do a pit stop! Big thanks to my team, ANSA Motorsports and to Onroak and Ligier who really helped me get into the car after running F3 Americas."
Nate Stacy, driver, No. 60, Roush Performance/Kohr Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4: "The Michelin tires were really good today. It’s got a grip level that doesn’t fall off very much. This was a big practice event, its good practice times, good format, good tires. It’ll be fun with these Michelin tires going forward; it brings a new aspect to the sport.
Kevin Groot, Ford Performance motorsport manager: "This was a very good event. It gave us lots of track time and the drivers and crews learned lot about working with Michelin. The drivers built a lot of confidence in the tires and that should help us throughout the 2019 Michelin Pilot Challenge season."
Remo Ruscitti, No. 82 Mark Motors Racing, Audi RS3 LMS TCR: "What an experience on the Michelins! We were hampered through practice. I think we missed half or three quarters of practice. We weren’t sure on tire strategies. We ran the rear tires the whole four hours of the race and only changed the fronts. That was a really good testament to Michelin and how good their tires are. The gap over four hours was never more than five seconds. The pace was relentless; we did the same pace at the end of the race as at the start. I’m really excited to be back in what will become the Michelin Pilot Challenge.”
Ready to roar
The next event for Michelin will the "Roar Before the 24" official test at Daytona International Speedway, January 4-6, 2019, which will mark the full extent of Michelin as the Official Tire for IMSA. This features testing for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Michelin Pilot Challenge, and the first three-hour race for the IMSA Prototype Challenge series.