Pirelli proud of P Zero performance in Miami finale
Pirelli and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series brought the 2009 season to a competitive close Saturday at the Grand Prix of Miami as P Zero racing tires and Grand-Am Rolex Series competitors once again proved why they are among the best in the world.
Record high temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s Fahrenheit and equally hot competition on the challenging 2.3-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course made the 12th and final race of the season an event to remember. Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype and Acxiom GT Team and Driver Championships were on the line Saturday, as too was a final chance at a 2009 victory for teams and drivers that had yet to make it to the top step of the podium. When the checkered flag flew at the end of an exciting and - for some - nerve-wracking race, a first-time 2009 winner did indeed emerge.
Jaoa Barbosa and Hall of Famer Hurley Haywood drove the legendary No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley to its first Grand-Am Rolex Series victory in six years. Barbosa, who is a master of getting the most out of his tires late in a stint, passed Scott Pruett in the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley with just 25 minutes to go for the memorable victory.
“Jaoa is a really smart driver and he is always using his head,” said Brumos Racing Technical Director Mike Colucci. “At the beginning of his stint he really paced himself to conserve his tires so that when it came down to it he could really lean on them. Even though it was hot, the Pirellis were amazingly consistent. They never went off, we didn’t blister any, and they were good. The Pirellis did the job and they were there at the end.”
Pruett finished second with Ganassi and teammate Memo Rojas and also jumped to second in the final Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype Team and Driver standings behind 2009 Champions Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team. Gurney and Fogarty ran a heads-up, and at times ‘stressful’ title-clinching run to fourth place, but the P Zeros were never a major concern.
“The Pirellis were good,” said Fogarty, who clinched his second Daytona Prototype championships in three years with Gurney and GAINSCO. “We put a scrub on them in previous practice sessions. They are exceptional for your first two or three laps but they did maintain quite well after that. I was pushing hard and not concerning myself too much with managing them.”
Fogarty, who led a race-high 45 laps, was even impressed with the structure and durability of the Pirellis on the Homestead high banks.
“Most importantly, they were always rock solid in what you would call NASCAR Turns 3 and 4,” said Fogarty, who won a series-leading sixth pole of the season at Homestead. “A lot of loading there and it is obviously a place where you rely a lot on the tires and I never had a question about the Pirelli’s ability through there. I felt safe there and made the most of the tires in the infield too. It was very hot and it’s a slippery track but I was cool with it on the tires.”
GAINSCO won both Daytona Prototype championships with 337 points, while Ganassi and its drivers took second with 331 points.
In Acxiom GT, the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 and drivers Dirk Werner and Leh Keen clinched the 2009 championships with a third-place finish even though their closest challengers won the race. The No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards saw Edwards muscle from fourth to first in the race’s final restart for the win. The No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis finished second.
“I was actually pretty impressed with the Pirellis over the course of the day,” Davis said. “I was a bit worried after qualifying and some of the runs we had done earlier because Homestead is just such a tough track on tires. It is just so abrasive that you really fight traction, but for my stint I was able to keep the Pirellis underneath me for the entire time. I still had plenty of tire left when I came into the pits at the end of my opening shift, and I knew I could run another half of a stint on my tires. I was really happy with Pirelli.”
Werner, Keen and Farnbacher Loles won both the team and driver titles with 359 points. Collins finished second with 334 markers while Davis was third in the final driver standings with 317 points. Edwards missed the chance to share runner-up honors with Collins when he was sidelined for a race late in the season after a training injury. A pair of DNF (Did Not Finish) results that kept Liddell from driving in turn made Davis the sole recipient of third-place honors.
The top performers of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series season will be honored the evening of October 12th at the season-ending Rolex Series Awards Banquet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. The banquet will include the announcement of the year-end winners of the new Pirelli P Zero Club program. The P Zero Club is a season-long competition that allowed teams to earn points for not only on-track performance but promotional and publicity activity as well throughout the season.
Like the overall Rolex Series title battles, the P Zero Club points race went down to the wire at Homestead with four teams in each class still in contention. The winning P Zero Club Daytona Prototype team will be awarded $50,000 at tonight’s banquet at the Hard Rock while the top GT team will receive a $25,000 bonus.
GAINSCO and Ganassi are two of the four Daytona Prototype teams with a chance at the $50,000 P Zero Club bonus along with the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley of Mark Wilkins and Burt Frisselle and the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson. In GT, the No. 07 and No. 57 Pontiac teams are also in the hunt for the $25,000 P Zero Club GT bonus along with the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 team and Sylvain Tremblay’s No. 70 Castrol Syntec/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Tremblay’s teammate Nick Ham won the pole at the Homestead finale.