MICHELIN SCORES FIRST WSC VICTORY AND SECOND OVERALL VICTORY; BMW LEADS PANOZ CARS TO CHECKERED FLAG IN SPORTS CAR FINALE Viper Team ORECA Wins FIA GT2 Race
(MONTEREY, CALIF.) --- Michelin was victorious in their first-ever North American World Sports Car race. Driving the No.2 BMW-entered WSC car, Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Calif. and Didier de Radigues of Monoco prevailed over two Michelin-equipped Panoz GTR-1s to complete a Michelin sweep of the top three positions in the final round of the SPORTS CAR season at Laguna Seca Raceway. The victory was Michelin's second overall triumph in just over a month in North American sports car racing.
David Brabham of Australia and Andy Wallace of France finished second overall and first in the GT1 class in the No. 4 Panoz. Wallace set the pace early with his Michelin wet weather tires giving him a decided advantage in the race that began in the rain before drying later in the race. The No. 5 Panoz of Eric Bernard of France and Johnny O'Connell of Phoenix, Ariz. finished third. Brabham and Wallace locked up the GT1 Driver's title with their victory. Bernard finished third in the driver's standings. Hans Stuck of Austria and Steve Soper of the U.K. finished 28th in the No. 3 BMW WSC entry after retiring early.
The Panoz victory gave Michelin a perfect record in North American GT1 in 1998. Michelin captured all 13 North American GT1 races in 1998, including their first overall victory with Panoz last month at Sebring.
Michelin-equipped Viper Team ORECA drivers Olivier Beretta of France and Pedro Lamy of Portugal, captured the team's ninth FIA GT2 victory in 10 races. The Michelin-equipped Vipers won the Teams title and Beretta and Lamy won the Driver's title (subject to official confirmation by the FIA).
"Michelin's strong performance this weekend in SPORTS CAR and FIA GT, again demonstrates the superior handling and performance of Michelin Pilot radials," said Herb Johnson, Director of Motorsports, Michelin North America. "Winning our first WSC race in North America combined with great Panoz GT1 and Viper Team ORECA victories shows Michelin's strong commitment to winning. Congratulations to the Panoz and Viper Team ORECA on their championship seasons.
Uwe Alzen and Jorg Muller, both of Germany, drove the No. 8 Michelin-fitted Porsche 911 GT1 98 to a third place finish in the FIA GT race. The Michelin-fitted DAMS Panoz GTR finished fourth. Allan McNish of Scotland and Yannick Dalmas retired early and finished 21st in the No. 7 Porsche 911 GT1 98.
Wallace set a new track record in securing the overall pole for the SPORTS CAR race. He qualified with a time of 1 minute 17.754 seconds, which equals 103.61 mph. Johnny O'Connell qualified fifth in the field with a time of 1 minute 18.180, which equals 103.05 mph. The Michelin-fitted BMW Riley & Scott MKIIIs WSC cars qualified fourth and eighth on the grid. Steve Soper qualified with a time of 1 minute 18.097 seconds, which equals 103.16 mph. Didier de Radigues qualified with a time of 1 minute 18.823 seconds, which equals 102.21 mph.
In addition to its activity in GT racing this year, Michelin North America is also supplying tires for the Barber Dodge Pro Series. Todd Snyder beat Jeff Simmons to the checkered flag in the Barber Dodge finale at Laguna Seca. Second place was good enough for Simmons to claim the Barber Dodge Driver's championship over Snyder 158-155.