Michelin Monterey Preview
Michelin Monterey Preview
The official factory racing teams from BMW, Chevrolet Corvette, Ford, and Porsche are locked in a fierce championship fight, and are confident that they have a winning Michelin combination as they head to Monterey for the penultimate round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season (Sunday, Sept. 9, 5:00 p.m. ET, FS1).
While the designs, layouts, aerodynamics, and power trains of the BMW M8 GTE, Corvette C7.R, Ford GT and Porsche 911 RSR are vastly different, the powerful factory backed GTLM class entries have two things in common: all have chosen Michelin as their respective technical partner, and all have visited victory lane during the first nine races of the 2018 WeatherTech Championship season.
“Being chosen by each manufacturer as the technical partner for their factory teams in one of the most competitive classes in the world carries high expectations. We are pleased all four partners have already claimed victory in the first nine races of 2018,” said Ken Payne, motorsport technical director, Michelin North America.
Well sorted and increasingly aggressive
“At this stage of the season, the cars are all well sorted and the GTLM teams have raced on all of our respective technical options. The tire strategies are increasingly aggressive as the championship battles proceed at full throttle and the teams and drivers look to carry momentum through the final two races of the season,” Payne said.
Twice in the past four races, Michelin technical partners have won with creative and aggressive race tire strategies. The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook won in Canada by changing only the two left side tires on their final pit stop and, more recently, BMW Team RLL’s Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi scored the first win for the new BMW M8 GTE at VIR by skipping the last tire change completely and double stinting their tires.
The race forecast
The venerable 2.238-mile, 11-turn WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey features dramatic elevation changes and the signature “Corkscrew” descent leading to the front straightaway. The two-hour, 40-minute race on the counterclockwise circuit puts a premium on corner entry and power down applications, both of which are made more difficult by elevation changes and sand.
“The track surface is worn and highly polished by years of racing with sand bordering the circuit edges. Any winds or off-course excursions bring sand onto the racing line, making things slippery,” Payne said. “Mechanical grip is at a premium.
“The early forecast is for fairly cool temperatures which may help our teams that prefer the Michelin cool temperature tire option, but with the race starting at 2 p.m. local time, track temperatures will be at their peak and may encourage teams to use their Michelin medium range options.”
The GTLM season encapsulated so far
Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen have utilized relentless consistency to lead the GTLM driver’s championship. They’ve scored six straight and seven total podiums this year, despite not winning a race. They look to add a third title together after also winning the championships in 2013 and 2017. Teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, who won the 2012 and 2016 titles, have Corvette’s lone victory of 2018 at Long Beach.
Five for Ford
Ford’s five victories split between its two cars this year puts them at the head of the manufacturer’s championship over Corvette. Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook won in Daytona, Canada and Road America but have only one further podium, and trail Magnussen and Garcia by four points in the driver’s standings (269-265). Their Ford CGR teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller have victories at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock and sit third in points (260).
Currently celebrating Porsche’s 70th year, the Porsche GT Team has scored wins with both cars. The 2015 WeatherTech GTLM champions, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, won at Sebring while Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took the victory at Mid-Ohio.
BMW M Breakthrough
After winning poles, setting fastest race laps and scoring runner-up finishes, BMW joined the victory parade with the first global win for the new BMW M8 GTE at the most recent round, the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway with Alexander Sims and Connor De Phillippi.