Race teams from 10 of the world’s premier automakers will take to the challenging 3.27-mile VIRginia International Raceway circuit at this weekend’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR, a key stop on the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The powerful factory backed BMW, Corvette, Ford, Ferrari and Porsche GT Le Mans (GTLM) class teams headline one of two WeatherTech Championship races that exclusively feature the production based GT cars.
The GTLM class is the only class in the WeatherTech Championship providing open tire competition, and all five manufacturers have chosen Michelin as their respective technical partner.
The two-hour 40-minute race (FS1) on Sunday provides the rare opportunity for an overall GT race win and a big step in the 2017 championship battles.
“The VIR circuit is a great test of all aspects of a team, car and driver and an ideal site for the GT Challenge at this late stage of the championships,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.
The 3.27-mile circuit, with its high-speed corners, elevation changes, and braking zones places a high demand on tires and precise handling.
Defending champs – Corvette
Through the first eight races of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season, Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, the defending champions at VIR, have wins at Sebring and Circuit of The Americas, and currently lead the WeatherTech Driver Championship.
Their Corvette Racing teammates and defending series champions, Oliver Gavin and Virginia’s Tommy Milner claimed the victory at Long Beach and were the 2012 VIR winners.
Ford GT fighting for titles
Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing won at Daytona and Road America.
They trail Magnussen and Garcia by just 8 points in the driver standings and have combined with their Ford GT teammates Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook to stake Ford to a one-point lead over Corvette in the Manufacturer standings.
BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen and co-driver Alexander Sims, winners at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park are just one point further back of the Ford duo in the driver standings and just 10 points off the Ford lead in the Manufacturer battle where their teammates John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk bolster their bid.
New Porsche emerging
Porsche’s Patrick Pilet, (a 2015 winner at VIR) and co-driver Dirk Werner recently claimed the first victory for the new Porsche 911 RSR at Lime Rock Park and with the mid-season addition of international GT star Gianmaria (Gimmi) Bruni, paired with Laurens Vanthoor, Porsche packs a powerful 1-2 punch in a late season bid for additional wins and championship points.
Risi Ferrari returns
The wild card in the deck is the return to competition after a four race absence of the Houston based Risi Competizione Ferrari team with drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander who opened the season with a pair of podium finishes.
Risi has won twice at VIR, including a sensational last lap pass by Fisichella to take the victory in 2014.
GT Daytona adds to the challenge
Adding to the GT field and championship intrigue is the Pro-Am based GT Daytona class where Acura, Audi, Lamborghini, Lexus, and Mercedes teams will take on rivals from BMW, Ferrari and Porsche as they race simultaneously with the Michelin fitted GT Le Mans cars.
With GTD competitors engaged in their own race and championship fights, working through traffic adds another dimension to the race.
The King and the Michelin Man meet
Two of the most recognized figures in motorsports; “The King” Richard Petty and the iconic Michelin Man will have special roles at Sunday’s race.
Petty is the Grand Marshall and the Michelin Man will serve as the honorary starter of the two-hour 40-minute race
Hot laps for cool fans
Michelin will once again offer fans a chance to experience a Hot Lap aboard a BMW, Ferrari, Ford, or Corvette fitted with tires from the Michelin Pilot family of ultra-high-performance tires.
Fans can look for chances to ride on the inner VIR Patriot Course by checking Michelin activities on site or on Michelin social media channels with the hashtag – #MichelinVIR.