Gymkhana legend and World Rally Championship star Ken Block will drive the Pirelli F1 test car, which has been used by the Italian company since its Formula One program was announced in June 2010.
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "gymkhana" as "a timed contest for automobiles featuring a series of events designed to test driving skill.")
The car was used in competition throughout the 2009 grand prix season, but it has since undergone aerodynamic and weight distribution modifications to simulate the latest Formula One regulations, for which the current P Zero tires are designed.
Before Block takes the wheel on August 5, 2011, for a one-off drive at the famed Monza circuit in Italy, the car will already have completed two days of testing in the hands of Pirelli test driver Lucas di Grassi from Brazil, who will be assessing the latest evolutions of the P Zero products for the future. Di Grassi will remain on hand to help give Block some tips and advice as he makes his Formula One debut.
The test campaign forms part of Pirelli’s on-going development program this year, alongside the 18,000 kilometres of private testing that were carried out in 2010 before Pirelli embarked on its first grand prix.
Block is set to use Pirelli’s softer compounds as he gets up to speed with the 700-horsepower Formula One challenger, which was a regular podium finisher two years ago. The two softest tires in the P Zero range -- P Zero Red (supersoft) and P Zero Yellow (soft) -- will give Block the grip and confidence he needs to get used to the car. In particular, these tires reach their operating temperature of around 100 degrees Centigrade in less than two laps.
Later on in the test, he should get the chance to try out the two harder compounds: P Zero White (medium) and P Zero Silver (hard). These tires have a little less performance than the softer tires, but increased durability and resistance to high temperatures -- not to mention "gymkhana" style doughnuts.
"I’ve been lucky enough to do some pretty spectacular stunts in my career so far, but this is something else!" says Block. "Everybody talks about Formula One being the pinnacle of world motorsport, so I can’t wait to discover it for myself.
"I’m very grateful to Pirelli, which has been one of my partners since 2010, for this amazing opportunity. These cars are so specialized that I need to be realistic about what I can do, but I know that it’s going to be a lot of fun and take hooning to a whole new level.”
Monza, just half an hour’s drive from Pirelli’s headquarters in Milan, is well known as the home of the Italian Grand Prix, and it is also one of the most iconic tracks on the Formula One calendar. The very first Italian Grand Prix at Monza, in 1922, was won on Pirelli tires, and the track has had a very special significance for the Italian firm ever since.
Set in parkland to the north of Milan, Monza is also one of the quickest and most spectacular circuits of the season thanks to its combination of long straights and fast corners. In fact, nearly 80% of the 5.793-kilometre circuit is spent at full throttle. As well as the modern circuit, Monza is famous for preserving sections of the old banking as a tourist attraction, underlining the track’s unique profile in motorsport history.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Ken is making his Formula One driving debut with us, and where better than Monza?" says Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery. "I hope that he thoroughly enjoys the experience of driving these awesome cars.
"We got to know Ken through our partnership with the Gymkhana program and the World Rally Championship last year, where he impressed us with his dedicated approach, his technical feedback and his unique way of marketing the sport. We’re really looking forward to finding out what he thinks about our Formula One tires, and I’m sure that the millions of his fans around the world can’t wait to see him behind the wheel of a grand prix car.
"Ken seems to be a person who has done more or less everything in his career up to now -- so I’m very glad that we were actually able to find a new experience for him!”
Pirelli Tire North America designs, develops, manufactures and markets tires for passenger vehicles in both the original equipment and replacement markets as well as markets and distributes tires for motorcycles and motorsports. For more information, visit www.us.pirelli.com.