The Alley

BMW, Corvette celebrate at Petit Le Mans

The sun wasn’t shining brightly, but BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen, Alexander Sims and Kuno Wittmer, and Corvette Racing’s’ Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller were brilliant in the ten hours of the Motul 20th Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the final race of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The 39 car field began the ten-hour race in misty conditions, but the rain soon stopped and the 2.54 mile, 12-turn natural-terrain Road Atlanta circuit quickly dried.

Michelin and its GT Le Mans (GTLM) class technical partner teams from BMW, Corvette, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Porsche GT Team and Risi Competizione Ferrari took full advantage to deliver a fiercely competitive race.

Auberlen, Sims and Wittmer combined to take the class win for BMW Team RLL, while Corvette Racing’s Magnussen and Garcia, joined here by Rockenfeller, chased them across the finish line to claim the 2017 WeatherTech Championship GTLM manufacturer, team and driver titles. The Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, and pole winner Alessandro Pier Guidi finished third.

Mix and match magic

“The GTLM class competition is so close that our technical partner teams took advantage of the fairly consistent track temperatures to get very creative in mixing and matching their three tire options,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.

“We saw teams with medium temperature tires on the front and our warm temperature tires on the rear, or one temperature range on the left side of the car and an opposite range to the right. Some teams went with our cool range tires all the way around and others with all hot temperature tires. And basically, they all worked.”

“Michelin would like to congratulate BMW Team RLL and Bill Auberlen, Alexander Sims and Kuno Wittmer on a great win here at the Motul Petit Le Mans. That is quite a way to celebrate Bill’s 400th race start with BMW.

“We congratulate Jan, Antonio, and our friends at Chevrolet and Corvette Racing on their ninth set of manufacturer team and driver Championships with Michelin,”

Incredibly close

When the nine Michelin GTLM class cars emerged from their pit stops with approximately three hours remaining in the ten-hour race, they all took advantage of the cool, dry conditions and fresh sets of Michelin tires to lay down their fastest laps of the race.

Led by Risi Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi with a lap of 1min 18.431 secs, the nine GTLM cars representing Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, Ford and Corvette all set best laps within an incredible 0.232-second range on a 1min 18.4-second lap. All five manufacturers led the GTLM class during the ten-hour race.

Everyone scores

Corvette Racing claimed four victories in 2017 WeatherTech Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class competition, with Magnussen and Garcia taking wins at Sebring, Circuit of the Americas, and VIR, while teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner claimed Long Beach.

BMW Team RLL matched that four-win total with Bill Auberlen and rookie star Alexander Sims claiming the class victories at Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and Road Atlanta while teammates John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk scored at Monterey.

Porsche claimed the first WeatherTech Championship win for the new Porsche 911 RSR at Lime Rock Park with Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner, and the fiercely independent single car Risi Competizione Ferrari team, with drivers Fisichella and Vilander, claimed five podium finishes in just seven 2017 WeatherTech Championship starts.

The final two wins of the year went to Ford, with Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller taking the victory in Road America as well as partnering with IndyCar driver Sebastien Bourdais to win at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona for the #66 team.

Corvette championships

This is the second time that Magnussen and Garcia (2013, 2017) have succeeded their No.4 Corvette Racing teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner (2012, 2016) in championship seasons as the Corvette Racing drivers have combined to claim four driver championships in the past six years.

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