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.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”