Michelin Double-Stints Propel Highcroft, Lizard to Victories

May 22, 2010

Michelin Double-Stints Propel Highcroft, Lizard to Victories

May 22, 2010

Highcroft Racing (left) and Corvette Racing (right) won the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Highcroft won overall and Corvette's No. 3 team finished sixth in class. Photo credit: Rick Dole

Tire strategy on the final pit stops decided the winners at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with Michelin technical partner teams double-stinting their tires to victory.

Highcroft Racing completed an improbable run from 33rd overall on the grid to win in Monterey at the third round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series season. It is both Highcroft’s second win this season and consecutively.

Simon Pagenaud put in an incredible first stint, climbing to fourth place by lap 4, and then hanging close to the lead before handing the car off to co-drivers David Brabham and Marino Franchitti. Brabham maintained the pace in the middle stint before Franchitti took over for the run to the flag.

The team doubled up on victories with its first win in the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge this season. Highcroft, which runs on E10, was the leading prototype in the race to complete the distance the fastest, furthest, and with the least environmental impact.

“The opening laps were pretty exciting,” Pagenaud said. “Starting at the back you have to find motivation and that was getting to the front. The ending of my stint was really good, as the MICHELIN ® Tires were working really, really good. We went through the traffic really quickly.”

Taking a 30 second lead in the final hour by choosing to double-stint his Michelin soft tires to the end, Franchitti had a great dice with polesitter Guy Smith in the Dyson Racing Lola Mazda toward the end of the race, but Smith’s charge ended when he reported a loss of power and all electronics shutting off. He pulled off by the side of the road at Turn 4.

In the fierce GT class, Flying Lizard Motorsports scored its second straight win from deep in the field as well by double-stinting their Michelin medium compound tires to set up a race winning pass on the final restart with eight minutes remaining. It very much resembled its fight last year, as the No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had to hold off a last lap challenge from another car. While last year it was a Corvette, this year it was a BMW, as Lizard’s Patrick Long held off Rahal Letterman’s Joey Hand.

“This year was not quite as exciting but still exciting nonetheless,” Long said. “We had a call if we were going to play for points or go for the win. On the restart Joey left a bit of an open door and I took it three wide through 11. Then it was all about running because I knew Joey wouldn’t be happy.”

After those two, Corvette Racing finished third with the No. 4 Corvette ZR1 driven by Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin. The team’s sister car, the No. 3, captured the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge win in GT with drivers Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen.

Level 5 Motorsports won in LMPC with Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Mark Wilkins, and GTC saw Black Swan Racing take a flag-to-flag victory for Tim Pappas and brothers Jeroen and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen.

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