Sears Point: Michelin race report

Panoz-Champion Audi-Panoz Take 1-2-3 Overall Sonoma-Taking advantage of Michelin's latest high performance rain tire technology to build a big lead in "heavy wet" conditions at the start of the race, the Michelin fitted Panoz and Champion Audi...

Panoz-Champion Audi-Panoz Take 1-2-3 Overall Sonoma-Taking advantage of Michelin's latest high performance rain tire technology to build a big lead in "heavy wet" conditions at the start of the race, the Michelin fitted Panoz and Champion Audi teams swept the top three spots in today's Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sears Point Raceway.

Pulling away from non-Michelin teams by nearly five seconds a lap at the outset, Panoz drivers David Brabham (#50) and Bill Auberlen (#51) and pole sitter Champion Audi's Tom Kristensen continued to extend their lead as track conditions dried.

Auberlen's Panoz made the first move, switching from full wet tires directly to dry tires. Michelin teams continued to build their cushion as one by one the field switched to dry tires and completed driver changes. At the finish, it was Brabham's co-driver Jan Magnussen holding off a hard charging Johnny Herbert in the Champion Audi by just .482 of a second for the victory, with Bryan Herta in the #51 Panoz taking third.

Alex Job Porsches; Racers Group Porsche- Sweep GT Class Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen took full advantage of the wet conditions to bring home a sixth place overall and first in GT class for the Alex Job Porsche. Local favorite Kevin Buckler and newcomer Marino Franchitti teamed to an impressive second place finish in the Racer's Group Porsche just two seconds ahead of Luhr and Maassen's teammates Timo Bernhard and Jörg Bergmeister who took third.

Luhr and Maassen actually finished ahead of the powerful GTS runner-up #4 Corvette Goodyear team of Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins. Pilgrim who started the race in the heavy wet conditions said "I had absolutely no grip. I had Porsches banging me in the back." Although the fastest GT class Porsches qualified on the dry track over six seconds behind the Corvettes, the Michelin fitted top three GT class Porsches all had fastest race laps in the dry within three seconds of the GT class winning Corvette. The rapidly improving Rafanelli Ferrari 550 Maranello fitted with Michelins finished third in GTS.

Michelin Extends Pole, Win, Laps Led and Points Strings With the Panoz and Alex Job Porsche victories and Kristensen taking the first ever pole for Dave Maraj's Champion Audi team and Kevin Buckler scoring his first GT class pole in just his second start on Michelins, the Bibendum boys were able to continue the pole and win streaks while extending their point leads. Despite competition from Goodyear, Pirelli, Yokohama, Dunlop and Avon, Michelin cars led every lap.

"Days like today are what we race for," said Michelin's Herb Johnson. "The results of all our research and technology development come into play. Our partners count on Michelin to deliver in all conditions and today we saw great results in very difficult conditions."

-michelin-

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