MICHELIN EQUIPS USRRC GT1 CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS; BOUTSEN, PORSCHE AND PANOZ WIN TITLES
(GREENVILLE, S.C.) --- Thierry Boutsen and the STP Champion Porsche team, guided by Michelin Pilot racing radials, won the GT1 Driver's and Manufacturer's title in the first season of the new United States Road Racing (USRRC) Championship. The Michelin-equipped Visteon Panoz Motorsports team won the GT1 Team championship.
Boutsen, Champion Porsche and Panoz wrapped up the three road racing titles at the Six-Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International August 23. Boutsen secured the title after prevailing over Andy Wallace, Eric Bernard and Raul Boesel in the race. The race completed a sweep of the five-race USRRC season for Michelin and was the tire maker's 10th consecutive North American GT1 victory.
"On behalf of Michelin, I would like to congratulate Thierry Boutsen, Champion Porsche and Panoz for winning the USRRC titles," said Herb Johnson," Director of Motorsports, Michelin North America. "Michelin Pilots racing radials started the season by winning the grueling Rolex 24 at Daytona and then provided a key ingredient in the success of Champion Porsche and Panoz the rest of the season. Our Pilot racing radials gave both teams the grip, handling and consistent performance they needed all season."
Boutsen topped Wallace 147-120 in driver's points, and by winning at Watkins Glen, Porsche broke a tie with Panoz for the manufacturer's title, winning 79-76. Panoz finished four points ahead of Porsche in team points 76-72.
The championships were not awarded immediately following Watkins Glen because USRRC officials made a late season decision to pursue another race date at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey Calif. in late October. They were unable to schedule the race.
Michelin-equipped cars have started from the GT1 pole in each of the five USRRC races this season and rolled into victory lane after the checkered flag flew at each race. Michelin began the season at Daytona International Speedway with the Rolex 24. The Panoz of David Brabham, Bernard, Jamie Davies and Doc Bundy sat on the GT1 pole with a record time of 1:44.395=122.76 mph. The Rohr Porsche 911, driven by Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan, Alan McNish, Joerg Mueller, Dirk Mueller and Uwe Alzen, and equipped with Pilot radials, captured the GT1 class, and almost took the overall victory.
Wallace captured the GT1 pole at Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex and took the Michelin-equipped Panoz to victory lane along with co-driver Bundy. Boutsen and Pierre Raphanel finished second in the Champion Porsche.
The series then moved to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in Lexington, Ohio. Brabham, driving the No. 4 Panoz, captured the GT1 pole followed by Bernard in the No. 5 Panoz and Boutsen in the Porsche. Brabham and Wallace prevailed over Bernard and Boesel. Boutsen and Wollek finished third.
Wallace turned the fastest lap of the race on lap 94 of the 111-lap contest with a time of 1:18.019=103.820 mph. It was the fastest lap turned by any car in qualifying or in the race.
"We put on a new set of Michelin's on my last stop and I had a lot of grip and I went for it," said Wallace. "Every lap was like a qualifying lap and we managed to get fastest lap of the race. The tires held up really good and the balance of the car remained the same all the way through the race which was good."
After two speedway road circuit races and the natural terrain road course at Mid-Ohio, it was time for Panoz and Champion to put the Michelin Pilots to the test on the streets of Minneapolis in the Minnesota Grand Prix.
Johnny O'Connell captured the GT1 pole and he and Bundy drove to victory on the tough street circuit that really tested the durability of the Michelin tires. Boutsen and Wollek finished second after damage from an electrical fire during practice was repaired with hard work by the Champion team and some help from the Panoz team.
"Michelin Pilot radials have mastered the high banks of Daytona and performed perfectly on the natural road course at Mid-Ohio," said Johnson, after the race. "Now Michelin has been victorious on the tight street course at Minneapolis, once again demonstrating our handling and versatility."
In the final six-hour endurance challenge at Watkins Glen, the Michelin Pilot radials performed flawlessly all weekend. Wallace took the GT1 pole with a record shattering time of 1:42.098=132.93 mph around the 11-turn, 3.77-mile natural road course in his Panoz. He broke his own record of 1:48.0551=125.602 mph set in 1997. Boutsen qualified second in GT1 with a time of 1:42.472=132.31 mph. Boesel qualified third with a time of 1:43.151=131.57 mph.
Brabham was involved in an accident in the early going with the No. 4 Panoz, so teammate Wallace shared driving duties in the No. 5 car with Bernard and Boesel in order to gain points toward the driver's title. Boutsen and Kelleners prevailed after the two cars battled for much of the race, giving Michelin its 10th consecutive GT1 victory of 1998.
Michelin has won all five GT1 races in Professional Sports Car this season. Panoz Motorsports drivers Wallace and Brabham led a Michelin sweep of GT1 at Sebring. The Champion Porsche finished in the runner up position, followed by a second Panoz entry. Michelin-equipped Panoz cars also captured victories at Las Vegas, Lime Rock and Mosport. Champion Porsche won at Road Atlanta.