Pirelli tests for Grand-Am Rolex Series

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Pirelli introduced its 2010 specification P Zero Racing Slick at Daytona International Speedway this week during December tire tests in preparation for January’s Rolex 24 – one of auto racing’s most iconic and legendary events. The two-day test, run December 8-9, gave teams and drivers the opportunity to test the new HAOF (highly aromatic oil-free) racing slicks – Grand-Am’s first foray into Green Performance, and the results were impressive.

Twenty-four cars tested the new tires on the storied 3.56-mile Daytona road circuit, and reaction to the new tires was encouraging. Although official lap times were not released by Grand-Am, unofficially, Max Angelelli was the quickest driver in the Daytona Prototype category in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara – nearly besting the track record.

“I’m very happy,” said Angelelli. “The new tires for 2010 seem to work really well. They can take so many laps that it’s almost unbelievable.”

Scott Pruett, eight-time American sports car champion, two-time Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Champion and three-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner was also impressed by the new 2010 specification P Zeros. Pruett tested a BMW-powered No. 01 Riley for TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

“What we’re seeing is phenomenal life,” said Pruett. “This is the biggest jump that I have seen in this sport since I’ve been in it. Consistency looks to be just terrific. We ran almost as fast at the end of the run as we did at the start - that’s what you’re looking for. It looks like what they’ve come up with has been a huge jump forward. We’re not (just) looking at pure speed, but endurance of the tire.”

Michael Shank Racing teammates Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson were also delighted with the performance of the Pirellis on their Ford Rileys. Negri was a consistent front-runner throughout the two days at Daytona sun in the No. 60 MSR machine.

“I’m extremely happy,” said Negri of his Pirelli tires. “The tires are lasting and performing much longer than last year. This tire suits my driving style. I can roll a lot more speed into the corner and have the front end working well. Yesterday my fastest lap time was with tires that had 150 miles on them. Today, my fastest time was with tires that had 170 miles. We are really, really happy.”

Drivers in the GT class echoed their Daytona Prototype counterparts in their praise for the environmentally-friendly Pirelli P Zeros.  Robin Liddell unofficially turned in the fastest GT time in the No. 97 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R, and was quick to credit the new Pirellis.

“As usual, it went very, very well,” Liddell said. “We’re going through a shakedown process with our new Camaro and we’ve had no problems. We’ve come to expect good performance and consistency (from Pirelli) and this test is no different. We’re very confident in the product.”

Spencer Pumpelly, driver of the No. 67 TRG Porsche and last year’s GT runner-up in the 24 hour race has confidence in the new P Zero Racing Slicks as well.  Pumpelly tested the No. 67 TRG Porsche alongside co-drivers Bobby Labonte, Andy Lally and Tim George Jr.

“The (P Zeros) are much more consistent,” Pumpelly said. “Pirelli has done an excellent job of addressing our needs. Based on what we know so far, it’s great. I can’t wait to get out there and be able to really lean on them.”

Pirelli Motorsport’s return to Daytona for testing this week highlights the intense preparation and development of the new 2010 specification P Zero.  The run-up to the manufacturer’s third season as the Official Tire Supplier to Grand-Am’s Rolex Sports Car Series is also the introduction of Green Performance to the racing capital of the world. 

“It’s great to be back at Daytona,” said Tom Gravalos, VP of Motorsport, Marketing and O.E. Sales for Pirelli Tire North America.  “Our new 2010 spec P Zero Racing Slick has proven to be consistent, durable and very fast this week, and we’ve been able to put many miles on the new eco-friendly tire.  As Pirelli increases the percentage of environmentally sustainable products in its line-up from 20% to 40% by 2011, our Motorsport products are leading the way with highly aromatic oil-free (HAOF) compounds – proving that Green Performance is the fastest way ahead.  The teams have been very happy with the P Zero’s consistency, durability and speed.  We are definitely looking forward to the start of the 2010 Grand-Am season at the Rolex 24 in January.  It’s going to be fast!” 

The drivers and teams in both Rolex Series classes will get another pre-season opportunity to run their 2010 Pirelli P Zeros at Daytona International Speedway on the weekend of January 8-10 for the annual “Roar Before the Rolex 24” three-day test. The 2010 Rolex Series season kicks off with the 48th Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 30-31. The green flag drops at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, January 30 followed by the checkered flag 24 hours later.

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