Verizon Wireless 250 next race for Pirelli in Grand-Am Rolex Series
P Zero’s run of record speed and top performance in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Cask No. 16 will continue this weekend during the Verizon Wireless 250 on Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP). Round 3 of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Series season can be seen live on SPEED this Sunday, May 3, at 1 p.m. ET.
Pirelli and a full field of Daytona Prototype and GT competitors arrived at the NJMP complex earlier this week. Practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday will pave the way for Sunday’s main event - the Grand-Am Rolex Series Verizon Wireless 250 2 ¾ hour timed race.
This weekend’s Verizon Wireless 250 comes on the heels of a VIR race that saw several Daytona Prototype and GT teams obliterate track qualifying records, thanks in part to improved 2009 Pirelli P Zero Racing Slicks.
Unexpected and unseasonably warm temperatures that approached 90 degrees made for tough racing conditions at VIR, but similar weather for this weekend’s New Jersey race shouldn’t be a problem based on how well the Pirellis handled the heat so far this season. The race was won by Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype, and starting driver Fogarty reported no issues with the tires in the high heat.
“The VIR race was kind of unusual because we started on a sticker set of brand new Pirellis,” Fogarty said. “Usually we start on a set we used in qualifying but the temperatures were hot enough that we were able to go with new tires and I was impressed that they were ready to race right away.”
While high track temperatures get most race tires quickly up to optimal operating temperature, hot conditions can also cut short a tire’s performance, but that was not the case at VIR. “Despite the heat, the Pirellis stayed good throughout the stint,” said Fogarty, who handed the No. 99 off to Gurney on his second pit stop.
Last year in the debut Grand-Am Rolex Series race on Thunderbolt, heat was less of a challenge than the dirt and debris that lined the newly constructed track. Pirelli responded with a durable tire that withstands the typical challenges of racing competition and the off-track hazards. While the track has been greatly improved for this weekend’s race, last year’s performance by Pirelli at NJMP has instilled some confidence in the Grand-Am Rolex Series competitors.
“New Jersey is a great and challenging track and I know Pirelli has been working hard to make sure we have a great tire for all of the conditions this year,” said Andy Lally, who anchored the GT class winning TRG Porsche GT3 at NJMP last year. “I am sure we are in good hands with them and look forward to seeing how good their tires will be there.”