Michelin Mid Season Review

MICHELIN DOMINATES NORTH AMERICAN GT1 RACING Pilots Radials Have Scored Eight Victories in 1998 (GREENVILLE, SC) -- Michelin Pilot radials have spent a lot of time in the winner's circle this year. In fact, Michelin tires have driven...

MICHELIN DOMINATES NORTH AMERICAN GT1 RACING Pilots Radials Have Scored Eight Victories in 1998

(GREENVILLE, SC) -- Michelin Pilot radials have spent a lot of time in the winner's circle this year. In fact, Michelin tires have driven into victory lane at every North American GT1 race this season.

Coming into this Sunday's SPORTS CAR race at Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, Michelin has scored eight consecutive victories on all types of tracks and surfaces that have tested the grip, handling and durability of their Pilot radials.

The GT racing season began in January on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway with the Rolex 24. 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. Panoz Motorsports team, with whom Michelin is partnered for the entire 1998 season, did not fare well at Daytona, but since then the team has dominated GT1 racing.

Andy Wallace and David Brabham wheeled their Michelin-fitted Visteon Panoz GTR-1 machine into victory lane to lead a sweep of the GT1 podium at the Exxon Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Former Formula One star Thierry Boutsen, Bob Wollek and Andy Pilgrim piloted the Michelin-equipped STP Champion Porsche 911 GT1 to a second place finish and Panoz drivers Eric Bernard, Doc Bundy and Jamie Davies completed the podium.

The trio finished second, third and fourth overall on the grueling airport runway circuit, behind one of the lighter, faster World Sports Cars. The GT1-winning Panoz and the Champion Porsche led at different stages of the event that was a real test for Michelin's radial tires.

Wallace captured the pole at Las Vegas International Speedway and he and Brabham gave Michelin its third GT1 victory of the season. Bernard and Raul Boesel trailed them in a second Panoz. Wallace also captured the pole at Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex and once again took the Michelin-equipped Panoz to victory lane along with co-driver Bundy. Boutsen and Pierre Raphanel, finished second in the Champion Porsche.

After dominating the speedway races and Sebring, the Michelin Pilots were ready to prove themselves on some of the finest natural road courses in North America.

Scenic Lime Rock Park in the hills of Connecticut was the ideal place for Michelin to start. The company has strong ties to the track and Skip Barber Racing.

Michelin is also supplying tires for the Lime Rock-based Barber Dodge Pro Series. Barber Dodge is now recognized as the direct path to higher-levels of open-wheel competition, in particular the CART Indy Lights championship, itself the Official Development Series of the CART FedEx Champ Car Series.

The Michelin program also includes the Skip Barber Racing School, the Dodge/Skip Barber Driving School and the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Race Series.

On race weekend, the Michelin tires provided the grip and precise handling the Panoz team need to capture the pole. Bernard shattered the track record with a time of 51.118=108.45 mph. The previous record was 53.249=104.114 mph set by Andy Pilgrim in 1995. Wallace qualified second, also breaking the track record, with time of 51.976=106.66 mph. Wallace and Brabham gave Michelin its fifth victory in a row and Brabham turned the fastest lap of the race with a record time of 51:687=107.261 mph. The previous fastest race lap for GT1 was a time of 54.410=101.893 mph, set by Irv Hoerr in 1995.

Michelin and Lime Rock Park also dedicated the Michelin Tower. Located at the start-finish line, the Michelin Tower serves as the operation location for officials on race days and as the classroom for the Skip Barber Racing School.

"Lime Rock was a complete race weekend for Michelin," said Herb Johnson, Director of Motorsports, Michelin North America. "Setting a new GT1 pole time and winning the race while turning a new quick lap time, combined with seeing some of the finest young drivers vying for the victory on Michelin Pilots in the Barber Dodge race made for a great weekend for Michelin. Dedicating the Michelin Tower competed the weekend."

At the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Wallace and Brabham prevailed over teammates Bernard and Boesel. The Michelin-supplied Champion Porsche driven by Boutsen and Wollek finished third.

Brabham 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."

The week before Mid-Ohio, the Michelin-equipped Porsche GT1-98, piloted by Alan McNish of Britain, Laurent Aiello and Stepane Ortelli of France, claimed the GT1 and overall victory in the world's most prestigious endurance race. The Michelin-fitted Dodge Viper GTS-R driven by American David Brabham, Justin Bell of Britain and Luca Drudi of Italy were the victors in GT2. Michelin supported cars finished second in both GT1 and in GT2. Panoz GTR-1s finished 7th and 26th in their second year of GT1 competition at Le Mans.

GT racing moved to the hills of Georgia at Road Atlanta the week after Mid-Ohio. Michelin was looking for its seventh consecutive victory and the Champion Porsche team was eager to break into the win column for the first time in 1998. Boutsen qualified second behind the Panoz, which Wallace placed on the GT1 pole. Boutsen and Wollek guided the Michelin-equipped Porsche to victory lane under the sweltering Georgia sun.

"It is great to see the Champion Porsche team atop the podium," said Johnson after the race. "The conditions were very hot all day, but once again the Michelin Pilots maintained their grip and brought the Champion Porsche to victory."

Bernard and Boesel finished second, Johnny O'Connell and Bundy finished third in a third Panoz entry. Wallace and Brabham retired after an early race accident.

The following week, Panoz and Champion put the Michelin Pilots to the test on the streets of Minneapolis in the Minnesota Grand Prix, trying to capture the eighth victory in a row for the tire maker.

O'Connell captured the GT1 pole and he and Bundy drove to Michelin's eighth victory on the tough street circuit that really tested the durability of the Michelin tires. Boutsen and Wollek finished second.

"Michelin Pilot radials have mastered the high banks of Daytona, handled the demands of Sebring and performed perfectly on natural road courses like Lime Rock and Road Atlanta," said Johnson, after the race. "Now Michelin has been victorious on the tight street course at Minneapolis, once again demonstrating our handling and versatility."

It is no wonder that Michelin is looking forward to getting back to racing at the Mosport Festival.

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About this article
Series GT , PSR
Drivers Andy Wallace , David Brabham , Dirk Müller , Raul Boesel , Laurent Aiello , Johnny O'Connell , Andy Pilgrim , Jamie Davies , Justin Bell , Uwe Alzen , Danny Sullivan , Thierry Boutsen , Luca Drudi , Skip Barber , Bob Wollek , Doc Bundy , Joerg Mueller