Michelin sees win streak ended
A nearly five-year long, 50-race Michelin winning streak ended by a margin of 0.506 of a second at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge, the sixth stop of the 2010 American Le Mans Series here today.
In an exciting duel over the final hour of the two hour, 45-minute race, the Dyson Racing Mazda Lola of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith claimed the first overall American Le Mans Series Race victories for Mazda, Isobutanol fuel and Dunlop as they edged the Highcroft HPD prototype of Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham by 0.506 of a second.
Michelin arrived here at the 2.258-mile natural terrain circuit with just three LMP class entries, but the Lime Rock-winning Muscle Milk Team CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder of Greg Pickett and Klaus Graf was withdrawn after a heavy crash due to mechanical failure on Thursday afternoon.
After scoring its first ALMS race pole on Friday, the Drayson Racing Lola Judd of Jonny Cocker and Paul Drayson fell out at the one-hour mark, leaving the potent Highcroft HPD racing team as the sole Michelin prototype in the top three for much of the race. The defending ALMS series champions fought valiantly but were limited by a previous change to a low downforce aerodynamic package that was not especially well suited to the Mid Ohio circuit. Having started the season with a high downforce package, the team cannot change back. Despite that, Pagenaud had cut a 9.4-second gap on lap 95 to just 0.191 seconds on lap 107 when a yellow caution flag flew. On the restart, the Dyson Mazda pulled a slight advantage and maintained it to the finish.
“THE PASS” AND A MICHELIN GT 1-2
Taking the third win of the season and moving to second place in the fiercely contested GT championship was the front row starting #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, driven by Gianmaria (Gimmi) Bruni and Jaime Melo. Together with the second row qualifying #4 Corvette Racing of Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta, they set the pace throughout the race.
Twice the BMW Rahal Letterman team played a perfect strategic hand, pitting the lap before a full course caution and leap-frogging into the lead on the pit stop exchange. Both times, the Risi Ferrari and the #4 Corvette hunted them down and pulled away. Melo made the move of the race and perhaps the season when after taking only left side tires on his final pit stop, he passed both BMWs heading into turn four on the restart.
“At first I planned to take a fresh set of tires, but we decided just to change the left side Michelin tires so we could get out ahead of the Corvette,” said Melo. “I could still keep the pace and the fight with the Corvette was very good. The win is good for ‘Gimmi’ and me, good for the Risi team, and good for Ferrari and Michelin.”
“The pace we saw from the Ferrari in qualifying was the pace they had in the race,” said Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin. “We are getting closer. It was like the battle we had in Le Mans Jaime raced hard, but clean and fair. We just couldn’t get around him. We feel that we are right in it now. It’s game on!”
Retaining the GT championship lead with a fourth place finish was the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long.
ALL THE WAY
Finishing third overall and taking the win in the LMP Challenge class were #55 Level 5 Racing Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker, who ran the entire two hour, 45-minute race without changing tires. Considering that ALMS cars must start the race on their qualifying tires and Bouchut ran a session-high 15 laps in qualifying to take the pole, the duo covered 130 laps or 293 miles on a single set of Michelin non-confidential specification tires.
Despite the high wear nature of the circuit, four of the six LMP Challenge class cars qualified and raced on a single set of Michelin tires and all finished in the top ten overall.
“We believe in open competition and sometimes that means that you get beat. Today was one such day. We won GT and had a great showing in LMPC but lost the overall win. Congratulations to Mazda on their first overall ALMS victory and to the entire Dyson Racing team. They are great competitors. We will refocus our efforts on starting a new win streak at the next race at Road America,” said Silvia Mammone, manager Michelin Motorsports.