Photos courtesy Mustang Sampling Racing

IMSA: Mike Conway joins Mustang Sampling Racing for Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona

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With the 2019 Rolex 24 Hours endurance race just over a month away, defending race winner Mustang Sampling Racing has solidified its driver lineup for the Jan. 26-27 event, the start of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Returning to the fold are Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque, along with Christian Fittipaldi, who will be making the final Rolex 24 appearance of his racing career.

Rounding out Mustang Sampling’s four-driver lineup for the 57th running of the Rolex 24 Hours will be veteran British sports car and IndyCar racer Mike Conway.

Mike Conway

Conway has previously raced for Action Express Racing, which is entering its fifth year of a partnership with Mustang Sampling Racing. However, this is the first time Conway will race fully under the Mustang Sampling banner.

Conway finished third for Action Express in last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, along with a third-place finish in the 2018 12 Hours of Sebring. He also finished second in the 2017 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Having won six-hour races at Fuji and Shanghai already in 2018, Conway is currently ranked second in the LMP1 standings of the 2018-19 FIA World Endurance Championship standings with three races remaining.

“I am looking forward to joining Mustang Sampling Racing and driving with Joao, Christian, and Filipe,” Conway said in a media release. “It is great to have already worked with them in the past, and as the results have shown, the team is very capable so I am eager to get to Daytona and help them hopefully bring another trophy home.”

Added Action Express team manager Gary Nelson, “We have been working hard to prepare to win at Daytona once again and we are happy to have Mike return to the team again this year.

“He is a strong team player and has made great contributions to our results in the past so he will fit in well with our line up in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac for Daytona. We are all looking forward to getting back to Daytona for the Roar to continue those preparations for the 24 at the end of the month.”

Like many of its counterparts, Mustang Sampling Racing will prepare for the Rolex 24 with the upcoming Roar Before the 24, Jan. 4-6 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”