2006 WAS A VINTAGE YEAR FOR PIRELLI MOTORSPORTS!
Three GT Championships for Pirelli-Shod Ferrari, Maserati & Porsche; Aston Martin Second by a Mere Three Points
ROME, Georgia, Dec.4, 2006 If Pirelli was a fine wine instead of an ultra-high- performance tire, connoisseurs would acknowledge the 2006 sports car season as one of the finest vintages in its 99 years of motorsports.
True, Pirelli has won 7 Grand Prix and Formula One world championships, including 85 Grands Prix, over the past century. Also true that the Italian-based performance leader has 11 sports car championships and 85 classic road races (Le Mans, Mille Miglia and Targa Florio) to its credit. But seldom has one tire company accomplished so much with so little as Pirelli has this year. Competing in five GT classes on two continents with very few Pirelli-shod cars in each class, Pirelli teams won three Drivers', Manufacturers' and Team Championships, narrowly missing a fourth as Aston Martin finished second to the factory Corvettes (189-186 points) in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
In their first full ALMS season, the #007 of Tomas Enge (Czech Republic) and Darren Turner (England) and the #009 of Pedro Lamy (Portugal) and Stephane Sarrazin (France) repeatedly challenged the six-time-champion Corvettes winning five of the ten races, including three-straight at the end. They had seven poles, four fastest laps and 15 podiums during the season earning the IMSA GT1 Cup for non-factory teams. Sarrazin finished second in the Drivers' Championship to Corvette's two Ollies, Beretta and Gavin, who repeated as GT1 champions.
The statistics speak volumes, but possibly the finest compliment paid Pirelli was by one of its fiercest competitors. Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager commented "I have to say Pirelli did an amazing job developing their tires for the Astons. Pirelli deserves a tip of the hat because it was a dang good tire."
Pirelli's success in GT2 was not as fortunate as they only supported the Panoz Esperante teams in the ALMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While the results were inconsistent, the Team LNT Panoz won the classic French race, while the Multimatic Panoz won the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring and podiumed at Petit Le Mans. So, the Pirelli-shod Panoz Esperantes proved to be the endurance kings of the GT2 season.
While Pirelli achieved considerable success on North American circuits, it was across the pond where they literally dominated the sports car racing scene in 2006. Pirelli first won the five-race Le Mans Endurance Series as the #76 Autorlando Porsche of Joel Camathias was declared the GT2 Champion as early as August with a win at Spa and three seconds. Pirelli competed in both GT1 and GT2 classes of the ten-race FIA GT Championship with the #1 Vitaphone Maserati MC12 of Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini crowned as the GT1 Champions and Jaime Melo drove away with the GT2 honors in the #58 AF Corse Ferrari.
In 26 races, Pirelli-shod teams 14 poles, 16 fastest laps, 64 podiums including 22 wins and three GT Championships.
2007 will see a major change of direction for Pirelli Competizioni as it re-structures its motorsport activity in a new business unit, with a major industrial re-fit planned. No new agreement with Aston Martin has been made for ALMS as the company re-positions itself for future activities. Paul Hembery, Motorsport Director for Pirelli commented "It may be a painful sacrifice to make in 2007, particularly after our successful 2006 experiences and particularly because 2007 is Pirelli's centenary year in motorsport but the lower level of on-track activity ,both in Europe and US is intended to assist our on-going product development and R&D programs which are to be focused on FIA GT and on a new raft of programs for 2008 that we hope to announce as we go through 2007, some of which will certainly be US orientated."