Michelin Motul Petit Le Mans preview
Michelin Motul Petit Le Mans preview
Michelin will change up the traditional race week order as its GT Le Mans class technical partner teams head into the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the final race of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“Some of the top teams use the pre-race line that they are ‘in preparation and anticipation of celebration,’” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America. “We will take a slightly different approach this week.
“For Michelin, Road Atlanta will be more like ‘preparation, celebration, and then anticipation’ as we immediately roll into our 2019 IMSA program.”
Michelin will become the Official Tire of IMSA in 2019. While Petit Le Mans concludes the 2018 season, it also provides a preliminary opportunity to view how 2019 may look.
The 10-hour race on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course with its elevation changes, high-speed corners and dramatic downhill sweep unto the front straightaway makes an ideal final event of the season.
“We should be well prepared for Petit Le Mans,” Baker said. “All of our factory linked GTLM teams have raced at the circuit many times and know it well. They are very familiar with our tire options and have become quite creative in mixing and matching options to optimize their performance and strategies.”
All four of Michelin’s full season technical partners have won in 2018. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing has five wins (Daytona, Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Lime Rock, and Road America). The Porsche GT Team (Sebring and Mid-Ohio) and BMW Team RLL (VIR and Laguna Seca) have each won twice, while Corvette Racing won at Long Beach.
Ironically, one of the two full season cars in class that hasn’t won a race leads the GTLM driver and team standings. Defending GTLM champions Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen of Corvette Racing enter Road Atlanta with seven straight podiums and eight podiums in 10 races this year.
In addition, Michelin welcomes the return of the legendary Risi Competizione Ferrari GTLM team which has won Petit Le Mans three times, most recently in 2016.
Michelin technical partner teams from Corvette Racing and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing are poised to claim the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship GT Le Mans class driver, team, and manufacturer titles respectively.
For Michelin, the race will bring together its technical, marketing, communications, and sales teams, as the company builds experience and momentum heading into 2019.
Michelin’s marketing team will host a special group of Influencers who will enjoy ride and drive activities, trackside hospitality, on track experiences, and an exclusive cuisine experience prepared by Michelin starred chefs.
“Fan engagement is always an important part of Petit Le Mans,” Baker said. “It was here 20 years ago that the late Dr. Don Panoz launched the event and introduced the open paddock, open pre-grid, and the ‘for the fans’ approach that has helped drive the sport to its highest level in decades. We will honor that, and we will also have some special news for fans.”
The post-race celebrations won’t last long. On Monday, Michelin will host its sixth on-track opportunity of the season as it invites one car from each WeatherTech Championship, MICHELIN Pilot Challenge and IMSA Prototype Challenge team to become familiar with the 2019 Michelin tires.
“We are going from nine cars here at Petit Le Mans, to well over 90 or even 100 cars at Daytona in January,” Baker said. “So, we want provide IMSA teams with an opportunity to become familiar with our tires, our technical and race operations teams and help them in their preparations for the Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore, the non-points event at Sebring next month, and the 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona in January.”