Daytona 24: Pirelli race report

OUTSTANDING PIRELLI PERFORMANCE IN GRAND-AM ROLEX SPORTS CAR SERIES DEBUT AT ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA DAYTONA BEACH, FL Providing even more P-Zero racing tires to competitors in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal...

OUTSTANDING PIRELLI PERFORMANCE IN GRAND-AM ROLEX SPORTS CAR SERIES DEBUT AT ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA

DAYTONA BEACH, FL Providing even more P-Zero racing tires to competitors in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16 than preliminary plans called for, Pirelli Tire capably answered the call of America's toughest endurance race with a record-setting performance at this past weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona.

In total, a record 15,215 Pirelli P-Zeros both wet and dry tires were on hand to be used by th Rolex Series competitors to complete not only the 46 running of the Rolex 24 but all of the related practice and qualifying sessions as well. Pirelli originally had 14,000 tires slated for the Rolex 24 but upped the ante well prior to race week when they knew competitor needs and ever- changing weather conditions would increase demand. It was a smart move as two major periods of rain on Saturday and Sunday and the always-close and competitive nature of Grand-Am racing had Pirelli personnel literally working non-stop for the majority of the weekend to keep the Rolex 24 rolling.

The incredible volume of tires put into service for the Rolex 24 by the more than 150 technicians and other personnel on hand at Daytona easily bettered Pirelli's previous high mark of 2,500 tires -more- used earlier this month at Daytona Test Days. At that event, Rolex Series teams ran a total of 11,616 laps on the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway (DIS) road course, which equates to more than 41,353 miles of testing. "I am extremely proud of the Pirelli crew, nearly 150 men and women from all over the world who came together to provide an unprecedented level of service to the competitors in grueling and pressure-filled conditions" said Rafael Navarro, Director of Motorsports, Public Relations and Advertising, Pirelli Tire North America. "They never wavered in their dedication or determination to keep service wait time to a minimum."

For practice, qualifying and the actual 24-hour race, however, an almost astronomical number of laps and miles were completed. Rolex Series teams ran an amazing 32,826 laps for 116,860 miles during the Rolex 24 event weekend, and throughout that marathon the Pirelli's lived up to the demanding expectations of Rolex Series teams and drivers. "This series has been a challenge to prepare for, one specification of a slick and rain tire that will perform consistently on all circuits and surfaces that the Grand-Am series will visit," commented Pierluigi De Cancellis, Global Director of Circuit Racing for Pirelli Tire. "The fact that many records were broken this past weekend is great news in spite of the miserable conditions, but, I want to keep the teams focused on adapting to the new product we have introduced respecting our recommendations because it is very different from what they are used to."

Among the teams impressed with Pirelli was SpeedSource, which scored Mazda's first Rolex 24 GT win of this century in the No.70 Castrol Syntec/Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8 with drivers Sylvain Tremblay, David Haskell, Nick Ham and Raphael Matos.

"We had the privilege of getting to know the Pirelli team and engineers very well when we helped them with their testing last year," said Tremblay, who also owns SpeedSource. "They know what they are doing and if you followed Pirelli's guidelines and did exactly what they prescribed, the tires were great. We had no problems with the P Zero's all the way to victory lane." -more- David Donohue co-drove the No.58 Brumos Porsche Riley with Darren Law and Buddy Rice to a 13th place finish in the Daytona Prototype class. Although their race was far from trouble free, none of their issues stemmed from the Pirelli tires, even in the toughest of conditions.

"I was particularly impressed with the tires in the rain," Donohue said. "With the lighting at Daytona, the usual deterioration of the windshields and the semi-rainy conditions, it was difficult to see. At times and at certain areas on the track, it was even like driving in the sun. You really had to drive by feel in these conditions and the tires were very responsive." Donohue also liked the overall speed and performance of Pirelli's racing slicks. "This is more of a racing tire than what we have had in the past," Donohue said. "The Pirelli is certainly more similar to other tires I have raced on before and its overall grip and lighter weight obviously improve performance."

Stevenson Motorsports Team Manager Mike Johnson, who calls race strategy for the team's No. 57 Pontiac GXP.R that finished ninth in GT with drivers Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis, Randy Pobst and Gunnar Jeannette, was impressed by the new Pirellis in their first true test in the Grand-Am Rolex Series.

"We have one of the heavier cars in the class and, from a race strategy stand point, the Pirellis were fantastic because you could double stint them," Johnson said. "We also had a lot of situations where we ran tires for a stint-and-a-half because of the changing weather, and the tires did very well. When the first rain showers came on Saturday, we stayed on slicks and the tires were very good in the wet, even with slicks on. We maintained some good lap times and had one of our best periods of the race, moving from eighth to fourth."

Cold and rainy weather was a constant in this year's Rolex 24, and the early morning rain on Sunday saw nearly the entire field switch to Pirelli rain tires.

"On the second down pour, right when the rain started, we put on the wets right away," Johnson said. "You are always nervous with Daytona in the wet because you are flat out on the banking and you can chew the tires up, even in the rain. When we came in after running in the rain for a -more- while, we were ecstatic with the tires. They still looked solid. From my standpoint the Pirellis are fantastic. You can double and maybe even triple stint in any conditions and they don't go away. I haven't done my final calculations but I bet we only used 10 or 11 sets for the entire race."

Davis, who will co-drive with Lidell in the Stevenson Pontiac in a bid for the GT season Rolex Series championship, gave the Pirellis high marks. "I was quite pleased with the tires," Davis said. "The wear was good. You had your normal degradation of the rear tires but the tires were consistent throughout the stint, right up to the end. The Pirelli rain tire, which I was able to spend about three hours on, was really impressive. It performed great in those wet conditions during the night hours. I think it was a good showing for Pirelli in their first run in the Rolex Series."

-credit: pirelli

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Robin Liddell , Randy Pobst , Darren Law , David Donohue , Gunnar Jeannette , Sylvain Tremblay , Buddy Rice , Andrew Davis , Mike Johnson , Nick Ham , Rafael Navarro
Teams Stevenson Motorsports , SpeedSource