Pirelli P Zero returns to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Grand-Am Rolex series

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Pirelli’s high-grip P Zero Racing Slicks take to the smooth tarmac of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Cask No. 16 Verizon Wireless Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM Communications.  Award-winning automotive designer Chip Foose will be the Grand Marshal. Round 4 of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series 12-event schedule will be broadcast live on SPEED at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT) Sunday, May 17.

Local Northern California favorite and Novato native Memo Gidley will be driving the No. 77 McDonald’s/Doran Racing Ford Dallara at this weekend’s race.  He knows the ins and outs of Laguna Seca better than most and learned last year that he can rely on his P Zeros on the series’ toughest tracks - like Laguna Seca.

“I’ve been really happy with the Pirelli tires,” said Gidley who is in his second season co-driving the No. 77 Ford Doran with fellow American Brad Jaeger. “For one, it’s great to have a tire with good grip that allows us to attack the corners like the Pirellis do.  This especially helps with a track like Laguna where the line is pretty narrow, and where to pass you need confidence that the tire has the grip to move off-line.”

Hoping to continue their upward momentum, Gidley and Jaeger co-drove to a solid fifth-place finish in Round 2 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in the Bosch Engineering 250 last month, relying on several long stints between pit stops to ensure the strong result. 

“The consistent grip of the (P Zero) tire during long runs has been awesome,” said Gidley who joined Jaeger in matching their top 2008 finish at VIR.  “This has made the car more fun to drive for those long runs between stops.”

Rolex Series GT competitors also learned of the P Zero’s awesome grip and durability at last year’s Laguna Seca race.  Paul Edwards drove his No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R past the No. 70 Castrol/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of Sylvain Tremblay in the closing laps of the 2008 Festival of Speed race and took the win with co-driver Kelly Collins.

“We are looking forward to defending our win this weekend,” said Collins, who went on to win the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Championship with Edwards.  “I have been a lead instructor (at Laguna Seca) for Skip Barber for over 20 years and it is my home track; but it is hard to get a real rhythm and set up a car there.  It is kind of like a billiard table – a low grip, smooth and flat surface - but we had more longevity and performance from the Pirellis last year than some other tires I have run at Laguna Seca.  The Pirellis lasted and we have no reason to think that won’t be the case again this year.”

Edwards joins his Banner teammate in looking for a repeat win at Laguna Seca this weekend and another championship this year.  He noticed that the 2009 specification Pirellis keep the power down but also give a bit of an advantage when it comes to stopping the heavy GT race cars under braking.

“We altered our set up and tested quite a bit and it works with the Pirellis,” Edwards said.  “The tires are awesome, and you can really hit that sweet spot with the Pirellis with the right pressures and when you get the temperatures up.  They are great, and this year at the first tracks we have run we seem to have improved our braking. The Pirellis are even allowing us to brake later.”

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