Pirelli shines during Grand-Am test

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Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series teams are getting back into their racing rhythm this week, successfully testing Pirelli’s P Zero Racing Slicks during a special two-day practice session at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

For many of the teams, this was their first on-track foray since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.  22 Grand-Am Rolex Series race teams took advantage of Tuesday and Wednesday’s track time as light rain fell each morning, giving way to sunshine and temperatures approaching 80 degrees in the afternoon. Once again, Pirelli’s P Zeros have proven themselves track stars, giving drivers the tools needed to be fast and consistent. 

No. 59 Brumos Porsche Riley driver Joao Barbosa has built a reputation for getting the most out of his Pirelli racing tires - and once again his P Zeros were there for him on a long run at the Homestead test.

“The Pirellis feel good and we have had no problems at all,” said Barbosa, who finished third in the season-opening Rolex 24 with teammates JC France, Hurley Haywood and Terry Borcheller.  “Even at the higher temperatures down here at Homestead they are running very consistent, very good.  I did one stint for 20 laps straight and I was surprised I had no drop off at all.  The Pirellis were good and knowing the tires are not a problem allows us to focus on other things.” Even though this week’s test lap times were not recorded, Barbosa’s Brumos Porsche Riley was unofficially among the top Daytona Prototype testers this week. 

On the GT front, a newcomer to the series stole the headlines and was impressed with his first experience in the Rolex Series and with Pirelli P Zero Grand-Am specification racing tires. Three-time reigning South African V8 Supercar Champion Hennie Groenewald is looking to the Rolex Series for his next career move, and tested the No. 30 Racer’s Edge Mazda RX-8 on the final day of the session after taking turns in both the Battery Tender/Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO and Porsche GT-3 on Tuesday.

“What obviously impressed me, and I assume it’s because these guys are running endurance racing, is how long the life of the Pirelli tire is,” said Groenewald, who incredibly turned the unofficial fastest GT lap of the test in the Mazda. 

“If you look at the age of the tires we were running on the Pontiac and the lap times we were turning, it was impressive.  The tires we use back home are sprint tires and after three laps there’s not much use in testing them.” Groenewald is hoping to have a ride for the July Daytona race and also to run the full Rolex Series season next year.

"It was a lot of fun driving each car because they were so different," Groenewald said. "I really enjoyed all three of them. We had the fastest lap of the test in the Mazda, but that was because I drove with a new set of tires. Tuesday, both cars had old rubber, but I could still run quick laps on the Pirellis despite the number of laps on them."

Next up on the racing schedule for Pirelli and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), April 25.  Following VIR, the Rolex Series is in action the next weekend, May 2, at New Jersey Motorsports Park, before traveling to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the U.S. Sports Car Invitational presented by SPEEDCOM on May 17. All three races will be televised live on SPEED.

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