Pirelli handles hot Laguna Seca Grand-Am Rolex action
For the second time in the last three races, Pirelli and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 handled the dual pressures of extreme heat and highly competitive racing. This past weekend’s Verizon Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM Communications at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (May 15 – 17) had unseasonably warm temperatures, similar to the conditions endured in last month’s Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.
Combining Sunday’s extreme heat with the high-action racing in the Grand-Am Rolex Series was a challenge Pirelli and its 2009 Spec Grand-Am P Zero Racing Slicks met head on with impressive results.
Jon Fogarty drove dual opening and closing stints in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley and joined teammate Alex Gurney in taking a hard fought win over rival Scott Pruett and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. In a daring move with his left-side Pirellis in the gravel and just his right side tires on the race track, Fogarty pulled alongside Pruett in the up-hill run to Laguna Seca’s famous Corkscrew turn and made the winning pass with just over 30 minutes to go in the 2 ¾ hour timed race.
“The Pirellis withstood the test today,” said Fogarty, who started third in the race despite going off course at the Corkscrew during Saturday’s qualifying. “It was hot and we had good grip throughout our entire stints. I started the race on my qualifying set of tires, which I felt like I really abused in qualifying, but they were good. They definitely were up to the task today.”
Fogarty also set the race’s fastest lap in the late stages on a set of P Zeros that had been on his race car for nearly an hour. Fogarty and Gurney became the first repeat Daytona Prototype race winners of the 2009 season and also took the points leads in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Team and Driver Championships, with the first quarter of the season now in the record books.
The action was even more intense in GT, where as many as five different teams battled nose to tail for the lead at various stages throughout the race. In the end, No. 70 Castrol/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 teammates Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay avenged a narrow loss in last year’s Laguna Seca race to score the victory. Both drivers reported the Pirelli P Zeros gave the Mazda teammates their best performance of the year.
“We have made big progress,” Ham said. “The car handled so well today and I had such confidence at the start of the race going into it knowing that I had the adjustability to work with the tires throughout my stint as the fuel burned off. So big credit to the Pirelli Tires today - very good.”
Tremblay drove the winning Mazda to the finish and gained valuable track position by depending on the durability of the P Zeros and changing only right side tires during one pit stop.
“The team just made great calls on set up,” Tremblay said. “We were surprised because we just changed the right side tires and the left side Pirellis lasted a stint and a half. So we really had no issues with the Pirellis today, they gave us great grip, and I think it is a real testament to how the crew was able to adapt our particular car to this tire at this race track. We are just very pleased with the product.”
Next up for Pirelli and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, June 4 - 6. The race can be seen live on SPEED beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 6.