Michelin-sponsored racers sweep podium to clean up at Utah Grand Prix

Jan. 1, 2020
Overcoming a significant shortfall in straight-line speeds favoring their turbocharged rivals, Michelin-sponsored racing teams from Patron Highcroft HPD, Drayson Lola and Muscle Milk Cytosport Porsche used cornering power and consistency to sweep the

Overcoming a significant shortfall in straight-line speeds favoring their turbocharged rivals, Michelin-sponsored racing teams from Patron Highcroft HPD, Drayson Lola and Muscle Milk Cytosport Porsche used cornering power and consistency to sweep the podium in the Utah Grand Prix.

Pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud and co-driver David Brabham dropped back to fifth place at the race’s start and during a subsequent restart as the more powerful turbocharged cars enjoyed nearly a 30 miles-per-hour advantage to blast by on the main straightaway. But from there the duo stalked the leaders and eventually took their third consecutive victory in this season’s American Le Mans Series (ALMS).

“This is a very satisfying win because it was certainly against the odds,” says Brabham. “We made up all of the time in the corners and with our consistency. Simon just kept laying down amazing laps to open the gap. When we saw the other Michelin teams double-stint their tires over the final 90 minutes we asked if we could double-stint to the end and our Michelin engineer said, ‘no problem.’”

“This was a David and Goliath kind of race and a fantastic win for the Highcroft team and Michelin,” Pagenaud points out. “Very few teams can do such a job. I knew that we couldn’t do anything about the speed of the turbo cars, but our Michelin tires were much better in the corners and so much more consistent that we were able to close in, pass and then pull away. Michelin provided us with amazing tires; they just kept getting quicker and quicker, and they stayed very consistent all the way to the end despite the heat.”

Leading the last 50 laps of the July 11 race at Miller Motorsports Park to claim victory in the GT category and take the provisional lead in the ALMS GT championship was the pole-winning No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni and Jaime Melo.

“We had a very good balance on the car and the Michelin tires were very, very consistent so I had a lot of confidence in traffic,” says Melo. “We came out of the last yellow behind the BMW, but I was able to pass him on the first lap and we just kept pulling away. We had time to change tires on our last pit stop but the tires were still very consistent so we double-stinted to the end.

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The Ferrari’s final margin of GT victory was 21.179 seconds.

Finishing in fifth place overall and taking the victory in the LMP Challenge class for identical Chevy powered Oreca prototypes racing with Michelin’s tires was the Level 5 Motorsports car of Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker.

Taking second and third places in the LMPC class and sixth and seventh overall were Green Racing Team Gunnar and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports; each car ran the entire two hour, 45-minute race on a single set of Michelins.

“We are very pleased that the hotter the track got and the longer the green flag runs, the bigger the advantage that we were able to provide our technical partners,” says Karl Koenigstein, Michelin’s ALMS technical team leader.

It was day of firsts for the Michelin Green X Challenge at the Utah Grand Prix. Finishing as overall runner-up in the race and scoring its first victory in the Green X was U.K.-based Drayson Racing. The win is the first prototype win for cellulosic E85 fuel, the chassis maker Lola and engine maker Judd.

Drayson is also the first team to score Challenge wins in both the Asian Le Mans Series and the American Le Mans Series.

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“Winning (the Green X) is one of our major objectives,” observes owner/driverPaul Drayson, “to win our second, our first in ALMS, is a real delight and real achievement.

He goes on to note that “we hope to return to accept this important award several more times this season.”

Scoring their first Challenge GT category victory and the first for Ferrari was the number 02 Extreme Speed Ferrari driven by Ed Brown and Guy Cosmo, which also ran on Cellulosic E85 for the first time during the environmentally conscious “race within a race.”

The series is designed to accelerate the development path to market for innovative technologies and alternative fuels, recognizing the cars that go the farthest and fastest with the smallest environmental impact. Two awards, one for Prototypes and one for GT, are presented at each ALMS event.

All five energy sources identified as part of the U.S. government’s energy policy (E10 ethanol blended gasoline, E85R gasoline blended ethanol, GTL (natural gas to liquid) biodiesel, E10-electric hybrid power and Iso-butanol gasoline) have been used in ALMS competition.

For more information, visit www.michelinman.com.

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