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|(July 28, 2005) – Audi drivers JJ Lehto and Marco Werner will return to Portland this weekend—12 months after recording Michelin's 50th overall victory in the American Le Mans Series at the West coast venue.
For Lehto, the victory was a historic occasion as he was actually the first ever Michelin winner with Tom Kristensen and Jorg Muller at Sebring back in 1999.
Since collecting that amazing record, Lehto and Werner have gone to win an additional five races together while Michelin has now stretched its win tally to 58 victories.
Lehto also holds the record for the most wins in the outright P1 class with 23—all earned on Michelin tires.
The Champion Audi pairing also joined with Tom Kristensen this year to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans—the second victory for Lehto and a first for Werner.
Kristensen collected his sixth consecutive Le Mans victory and his seventh overall.
The other Champion combination of Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela took the overall victory for Audi at Infineon Raceway at the last round of the ALMS championship.
The duo have never won at the Oregon venue, but did finish second behind the Michelin-equipped duo of David Brabham and Jan Magnussen at Portland in 2001.
While Portland did not appear on the ALMS calendar in 2002 and 2003, Michelin remains undefeated—winning the race in 1999, 2000,2001, and last year's action-packed return event at the track.
MICHELIN RECORD BREAKERS: Michelin teams are well accustomed to breaking records and now have their sights set on blowing away another set of speed records at Portland this weekend.
At the previous round at Infineon Raceway, the pole record was clinched by Dyson Racing's Andy Wallace at 1 minute 21.688 seconds—shaving .632 of second from the old record.
All three race speed records were broken by Michelin teams with Marco Werner—Audi R8 (1:22.041), Olivier GavinCorvette C5-R (1:28.934) and Timo Bernhard—Porsche (1:35.112) setting new record times during the race
Last year at Portland, Corvette racer Olivier Beretta was the only driver to be able to re-write the record books for qualifying and race speeds. Beretta recorded a record qualifying lap of 1:09.981 during Saturday qualifying and went nearly as fast in the race—stopping the clocks at 1:10.122.
With the race due to start at 5:00pm on Saturday, ambient temperatures are expected to be cooler, however, Michelin engineers have discovered that the Portland circuit tends to maintain higher track temperatures.
For unexplainable reasons, the track temperatures are routinely 30-40° Fahrenheit higher than the ambient temperature.
"We have tried to understand this phenomenon...we have run several tests and haven't found anything out of the ordinary," said Jerry Rinaldo, Michelin Racing Manager. "It could even be the soil under the track. No one seems to know."
Michelin engineers will closely monitor track temperatures and make sure that its cars have tires with a rubber compound that can withstand the high temperatures. "Track temperature will be the most determining factor in deciding which tires to race on," said Rinaldo.
WINNING DRIVERS RELY ON MICHELIN: Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela became the latest drivers to wear the famous Michelin podium hat in victory lane at the last round of the ALMS.
To date in 2005, 19 drivers have earned the sweet taste of victory on Michelin tires in the American Le Mans Series.
The joy has already been well spread in 2005. Last year in the ALMS, 20 drivers took class victories on Michelin throughout the 2004 championship season.
MORE LAPS IN THE LEAD: After a flag to flag victory at Infineon Raceway at the last round of the American Le Mans, Michelin has now led 851 of the 861 laps raced to date in 2005—a staggering 98%.
Competing in the P1, GT1 and GT2 classes, Michelin has taken 14 class victories from 15 class races entered in 2005.
The Bibendum Boys are well on the way to repeating last year's effort when they took 26 victories from 27 class races entered in the American Le Mans Series.
PORSCHE POWER IN THE LEAD: Alex Job Racing Porsche duo Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas will be out to record their fourth consecutive victory in the GT2 class at Portland next weekend.
The German/French duo's Porsche domination began a winning steak at Mid Ohio and tasted success at Lime Rock and Infineon Raceway as well.
The Lime Rock victory was significant to Michelin as it was the company's 50th GT2 class victory.
To date in the history of the American Le Mans Series, Michelin has won 51 races from 61 starts in the GT2 class.
Four class wins in a row will equal the effort of Champion Audi's JJ Lehto and Marco Werner who took four consecutive P1 victories in the ALMS on Michelin tires last year.