Michelin GT Challenge at VIR showcases track, GT talent

August 22, 2019

Michelin GT Challenge at VIR showcases track, GT talent

August 22, 2019

For the second time in three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes have a GT-only showcase event.

The Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway is that event.

The track itself has been recently repaved within the last few years, and its asphalt provides a great testing ground for MICHELIN(R) tires both for the track and the street.


The Michelin GT Challenge at VIR Event Card for the race is linked here.

“You have relatively new asphalt, and it still has some color that holds heat fairly well,” explained Ken Payne, technical director, motorsport, Michelin North America.

“This track has lots of elevation change. There’s a mix of really fast, short duration corners like the climbing esses, and also some long corners like NASCAR. It’s a nice mix of challenging combinations that work the car pretty thoroughly.”

There’s not a lot of cautions here in the two-hour, 40-minute race. Only one caution flag flew in 2018 and 2016, and the 2017 and 2015 races ran caution-free. So, teams should anticipate a mostly green-flag race as they plan out their race strategies.

The projected 22-car grid includes the usual eight GTLM cars coupled with 14 GTD cars.

Corvette Racing is in dire need of a victory, having yet to score a win this season. Two-time defending champions Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen love the circuit, and look to recapture the glory of their back-to-back wins here in 2016 and 2017 in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R.

“VIR is one of our favorite tracks as a team,” Garcia said. “We’ve won quite a few times there and came up a little short last year. So Corvette Racing really likes the track, and Jan and I have had a lot of success.”

Magnussen added, “VIR has been good to us. We need it to be good to us again. We really need a win for this season and the championship. There are some places where the result comes a little easier than at others, and for some reason VIR is that for us.”

Last year it was BMW that broke through for its first global win for the new M8 GTE. Porsche last won here in 2015. Ford has yet to conquer VIR, and last year’s frustrating race cost it significantly in the championship.

“VIR has a great combination of high speed and low speed sections, but also offers some great elevation change as well,” said Connor De Phillippi, who shared the winning No. 25 BMW M8 GTE with Alexander Sims here last year. He will race alongside Tom Blomqvist this year.

Four different brands have won in GTD here the last five years. Lexus snatched the victory last year late in the race, with Lamborghini (2016 and 2017), Ferrari (2015) and BMW (2014) also breaking through.

Lexus’ pair of AIM Vasser Sullivan RC F GT3s should be contenders again this weekend. Both cars, with Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand in the No. 14 car and Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo in the No. 12 car, remain alive for the season and WeatherTech Sprint Cup championships.

“Everyone involved loves it,” Jeff Bal, Lexus Motorsports Manager said of the GT-only race. “There is more radio and TV time for us. And frankly, there is not as much traffic. VIR is a track we do very well at as we look to defend our win from last year.”

Meyer Shank Acura’s pair of Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher (above) hold a significant lead in the GTD drivers’ standings, 26 points over Turner BMW’s Bill Auberlen and Robby Foley. However among manufacturers, just seven points cover Acura, Lamborghini, Lexus and Porsche.

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