IMSA: Michelin returns to Watkins Glen for first time since 1999

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The first TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series event at Watkins Glen International marks the first time that Michelin has raced in a major event at the storied circuit in nearly 15 years.

Michelin technical partner teams from Viper Team Oreca and Chamberlain Motorsport Viper swept the podium at the 1999 FIA GT Championship race at Watkins Glen in October 1999.

Competing in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class in the TUDOR Championship, Michelin will try to match that success as its 2014 technical partner teams from BMW Team RLL, Corvette Racing, Porsche North America, Risi Competizione Ferrari and Krohn Racing Ferrari and also SRT Motorsports Viper. The Vipers take on their retro red livery from the standard blue and silver, starting this weekend.

The 3.37-mile, 11-turn circuit, with over 140 feet in elevation changes twice each lap, presents a number of technical challenges including long, fast straightaways ending in downhill cornering, uphill exits and a mix off high, medium and low speed corners and heavy braking zones.

“Our Michelin engineers and technical partner teams always look forward to the challenges of a new circuit, especially a legendary circuit like Watkins Glen,” said Ken Payne, motorsports technical director for Michelin North America.

“From a technical approach, extended tread life, consistent braking and cornering are critical. A six hour race also provides some opportunities to try different compounds and tire strategies,” said Payne. “Artistically, our tires are the paint that drivers and teams use to draw their lines for each corner and create their full canvas of the circuit.”

Michelin and its technical partners have all made use of various combinations of simulations and track tests in preparation for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen on Sunday, June 29.

“Simulations are extremely helpful and certainly get us pointed in the right direction, but there is no substitute for actual race miles to discover any changes in grip levels as the track evolves in race conditions to complete the picture,” said Payne.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.