O'Connell knows his tires at Laguna seca

(Greenville, S.C.) - Once upon a time, race driver Johnny O'Connell had to dig through the tire barriers at Sears Point International Raceway in order to find tires for his street car. Now, some 12 years later, he will be racing at Sears...

(Greenville, S.C.) - Once upon a time, race driver Johnny O'Connell had to dig through the tire barriers at Sears Point International Raceway in order to find tires for his street car. Now, some 12 years later, he will be racing at Sears Point, but he won't have to be looking through the barriers to find tires. He will have the most dominant tires in sportscar racing, Michelin Pilot radials, on his Panoz LMP-1 Roadster.

"Yeah, that was a long time ago, but it is a true story," says O'Connell, who along with teammate Hiroki Katoh will be competing in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Grand Prix of Sonoma on July 23. "I used to teach a driving school there and one of my paybacks was being able to sort through the tires.

"Next week, I plan to stay as far away from those tire barriers as possible because with Michelin, I have the best tires in racing," continued O'Connell, who finished fourth at the Nürburgring last weekend. "Many people underestimate the importance tires play in racing, but I assure you that as a driver I fully appreciate the advantage that Michelin's technical expertise and reliability offers on and off the track."

Last year at the Sears Point ALMS race, Michelin cars qualified on the pole, led 96 of the 97 laps, recorded the fastest race lap and won the race (JJ Lehto and Steve Soper won in a BMW). Olivier Beretta and David Donohue won the GTS category in a Michelin-shod Dodge Viper.

Earlier this year, Michelin-shod cars won the 24 Hours of Daytona (Dodge Viper), the 12 Hours of Sebring (Audi) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (Audi). In fact, Michelin has scored six of the last nine overall wins at Le Mans, including the three most recent. Michelin has also won the GTS category at Le Mans the past three years with Dodge Viper.

Like Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans, tires will be an important factor at Sears Point.

"Sears Point is a very exciting track with a lot of elevation changes and off-camber turns that keep the drivers busy," said Herb Johnson, director of motorsports, Michelin North America. "That means having a car that handles well is very important. And that means having great tires is a must. The Michelin tires we will be taking to Sears Point will be very consistent throughout the race so the drivers will know precisely what to expect in terms of handling and the engineers will be able to tune the car's suspension with confidence."

In the prototype category at Sears Point, the Sebring and Le Mans-winning Audi team will be riding on Michelin tires, as will the 1999 Le Mans-winning BMW, Panoz, Olive Garden Rafanelli and Champion teams.

Team Oreca will field a pair of Michelin-shod Dodge Vipers, which not only scored its third consecutive Le Mans GTS victory in June but also won the 24 Hours of Daytona outright in February and the 12 Hours of Sebring GTS category in March.

Alex Job Racing, Dick Barbour Racing and Mike Colucci Racing will field Porsches fitted with Michelin tires in the GT category.

Michelin manufactures and sells tires for every type of vehicle, including airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, earthmovers, farm equipment, heavy duty trucks, motorcycles and the space shuttle. The company also publishes travel guides, maps and atlases covering Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Headquartered in Greenville, S.C., Michelin North America (www.michelin.com) employs 27,000 and operates 23 plants in 21 locations.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny O'Connell , David Donohue , Dick Barbour , Hiroki Katoh , Olivier Beretta , Steve Soper , Alex Job
Teams Alex Job Racing