Sebring: Michelin preview

Corvette joins Michelin roster for 2004 American Le Mans Series There were a lot of Michelin hats handed out in victory lane in the second half of the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in the GTS class. Michelin won the final four races with...

Corvette joins Michelin roster for 2004 American Le Mans Series

There were a lot of Michelin hats handed out in victory lane in the second half of the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in the GTS class. Michelin won the final four races with Ferrari -- adding to the 24 Hours of Le Mans victory by the Italian marque.

While Corvette Racing's Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell may have clinched the ALMS points championship for Corvette and Goodyear, the late season speed by Michelin has prompted the Pratt & Miller squad to become "Bibendum" boys in 2004. Even though the Michelin tires are new for the C5-R racer, Corvette's driving squad is certainly more than familiar with Michelin performance.

New driver Olivier Beretta (pictured right) is a two-time ALMS GTS Champion aboard a Michelin-shod Dodge Viper and is also a Michelin Formula One test driver -- having completing thousands of development miles each year aboard a Williams BMW F1 Team machine. Beretta also set a record of six consecutive podium finishes for JML Team Panoz last year with Michelin rubber.

Johnny O'Connell actually recorded the first ever victory for the Panoz LMP-01 racecar at Mosport in 1999 -- also equipped with Michelin tires. His then co-driver Jan Magnussen joins the Corvette squad for the endurance races in 2004, teaming up with Beretta and Oliver Gavin. Magnussen last year took a GTS victory for Ferrari at Road America with David Brabham -- adding to their previous Michelin successes when they were teammates at Panoz. He also finished fourth at Le Mans with a Michelin-shod Goh Team Audi in 2003.

[sebring_corvette_lr.jpg] Max Papis makes his Corvette debut in 2004 teamed up with Fellows and O'Connell. The ex-Formula One and Champ car ace drove with Beretta last year to finish fifth at Sebring and Le Mans and second at Petit Le Mans for the JML team Panoz Michelin squad.

Michelin assigns a tire engineer for each of its ALMS teams. For O'Connell, Beretta, Magnussen and Papis -- it will seem even more like a Michelin homecoming with Michelin's Donnie Wilson assigned to Corvette. Wilson has worked with all four drivers previously at Panoz.

FLYING HIGH! -- Only one week before the race, Michelin will actually air-freight 1,000 of the 3,500 tires from Clemont-Ferrand, France to be used for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. These latest development tires will be personally escorted by a Michelin representative to ensure the precious cargo arrives safe and sound.

The total of 3,500 tires equates to having 29 different tire solutions available for its 17 teams for the 12-hour race. Each "solution" is a either a different compound, construction or tire type -- a wet or dry tire. Michelin will have 11 P1 solutions, ten for GTS and eight for GT.

THE YEAR OF PERFORMANCE -- 2004 will certainly be a busy year for Michelin. At the same time as handling the huge logistics for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Michelin also will be competing across the other side of the world at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Last week the Bibendum boys did battle in Mexico, grabbing its third consecutive World Rally Championship victory of 2004.

Two-wheeled action has been just as frantic, with Michelin breaking the track record in qualifying at Daytona for the opening round of the AMA Superbike Championship and conducting extensive pre-season testing around the world for the 2004 MotoGP Championship. But the "Year of Performance" is not only for Michelin's race teams.

Michelin recently unveiled the first of four new ultra-high-performance tires in Barcelona, Spain -- the Michelin® Pilot® Sport PS2™. More than 15 leading U.S. automotive journalists were on-hand to try the new tire bolted onto BMW M3s, Audi TTs and Chrysler Crossfires. Three additional tires for the ultra performance market will be launched through 2004.

[sebring_audi_lr.jpg] THE MICHELIN 2004 ROSTER -- A total of 17 cars will be riding on Michelin tires at Sebring. In the prototype division, Michelin-shod cars include the factory-supported efforts from Champion Audi and the two-car Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx (pictured right).

The French Larbre Competition team will field a Michelin-equipped Panoz GTR-1 coupe while Corvette Racing will also make its Michelin debut in 2004 at Sebring in the GTS class.

In the GT category, Michelin tires will equip the Alex Job, Racers Group, BAM -- British American Motorsports, Flying Lizard Motorsports, J-3 Racing and White Lightning Porsche teams.

ALMS SUCCESS -- Dating back to the series' inception in 1999, Michelin teams have led 8,051 of a possible 8,372 laps (96%) in ALMS competition en route to winning 45 of 47 races, including all five 12 Hours of Sebring races. During the 2003 season, Michelin teams led 1,509 of 1,632 laps in the ALMS. Michelin teams led every lap of the 2003 Sebring 12 Hour, Le Mans 24 Hour and Petit Le Mans.

LET THE BATTLE BEGIN -- Michelin is seeking its sixth consecutive ALMS Tire Championship for the top category (renamed P1 for 2004) and its fifth consecutive ALMS Tire Championship for the GT category in 2003. Unlike other forms of motorsports which run a single "spec tire," the ALMS enjoys a fierce battle among tire companies including Michelin, Goodyear, Dunlop, Yokohama, Pirelli and Avon.

12 HOURS OF SEBRING LIVE ON SPEED CHANNEL -- The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will be aired live at 10 a.m. ET, March 15, on SPEED Channel.

AST YEAR'S TROPHY CABINET -- Michelin enters the 2004 ALMS season having won the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans (Bentley), Michelin's sixth consecutive win and its ninth in the last 12 years.

Michelin also had all Top Ten finishers at Le Mans as well as winning the LMP675 category (Noel Del Bello Reynard), GTS (Prodrive Ferrari) and the GT category (Alex Job/White Lightning Racing).

Michelin also scored additional victories at last year's 12 Hours of Sebring (pictured right) and Petit Le Mans, both with Audi. It also scored class victories in GT at Sebring (Alex Job Racing) and GTS (Prodrive Ferrari) and GT (Alex Job Racing) at Petit Le Mans.

ENGINEERED FOR SUCCESS -- Tuning a race engine for optimal performance is expected in racing, but what about the tires? Michelin spends as much time and effort fine tuning the tires for race day as the mechanics spend tweaking the engines...but Michelin has to get the mix right for 17 of the cars racing at Sebring.

Ten tire engineers, tire designers and development engineers will fly in from France to join with the U.S.-based technical team to gather data and investigate further improvements for the Michelin range. In what amounts to a high-speed laboratory -- Michelin will not only aim for success at Sebring, but will also share the lessons learned in its development of new rubber compounds and tire constructions for the Le Mans 24 Hour and the remainder of the 2004 ALMS season.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DRIVE FROM SEBRING TO L.A.? -- Michelin will bring more than 3,500 tires, giving its teams a full repertoire of tires from which to choose, featuring construction techniques and rubber compounds suited for varying weather, temperatures and track conditions.

That's enough tires to travel more than 700,000 racing miles, which is equal to more nearly 190,000 laps around the 3.7-mile Sebring International Raceway road course or nearly 136 round-trips between Sebring and Los Angeles.

After the tires are air freighted in from France, Michelin will use seventeen 53-foot tractor-trailers to transport the tires to Sebring from its headquarters in Greenville, S.C. Two 25KW generators and 40 bottles of nitrogen are also required to support the weekend effort. Michelin will bring a total of 40 engineers, tire fitters and support personnel to the track.

JUMP STARTING THE 2004 MICHELIN ASSAULT -- "Michelin has an outstanding record at the Twelve Hours of Sebring, but we can not afford to rest on our laurels. A dramatic amount of development has taken place since Petit Le Mans last year to ensure our manufacturer partners and other teams have the most advanced product we can produce," Michelin's motorsport marketing manager, Amanda Head said.

"With 2004 being the 'Year of Performance' for Michelin, we are looking forward to our first on-track event here in the United States. We have some new teams such as Corvette and a host of new tires for our competition partners this year. Race fans can also experience our dedication to performance with tires such as the Pilot® Sport PS2™ for their car as well."

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Max Papis , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Olivier Beretta , Alex Job
Teams Williams , Corvette Racing , Larbre Competition , Alex Job Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports