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Le Mans 24 hours: the legend returns

Possibly the most long-awaited moment in the history of the
collaboration between Pirelli and Cadillac has arrived: the debut
of the Cadillac Northstar LMP fitted exclusively with Pirelli PZero
tyres in the Le Mans 24 Hours. On Saturday 17 June, when the most
famous endurance race in the world gets underway, fifty years will
have passed since the first appearance at Le Mans of the Cadillac
on its maiden race. Powered by a 5.4 litre engine and driven by
Briggs Cunningham, the American car had a positive race at the
Sarthe circuit in 1950. This was followed by half-a-century away
from the tracks: now, with Pirelli, the time has come to pick up
history where it left off.

Pirelli and the Le Mans 24 Hours: two names that form part of
motor racing history. Italian tyres triumphed in the Sarthe
‘classic’ in the days when races were considered to be ‘heroic’.
The all-Italian victories with Ferrari remain the stuff of legend:
in 1949 with the Ferrari 166 driven by Chinetti and by Lord
Seldson; five years later, again with the Prancing Horse, it was
the turn of the 375 Plus driven by Gonz`lez and Trintignant. Since
then, many things have clearly changed. But Pirelli has always
considered Le Mans to be a prime example of its conception of motor
racing: an itinerant laboratory of research and development,
guaranteeing an immediate and direct link with the design and
production of road tyres.

Pirelli’s experience at Le Mans has never been interrupted. Even
in recent years, despite not being linked with factory teams
chasing overall victory, the 24 Hours has been full of satisfaction
for the Italian manufacturer. In 1998, for example, Pirelli
obtained a superb fourth place overall thanks to the McLaren GT1 of
O’Rourke-Sugden-Auberlen, as well as victory in the category
reserved for WSC World SportsCars, with a Ferrari 333SP driven by
Taylor-Van de Poele-Velez.

From this year onwards, history steps up a gear. The weekend of
17-18 June will see the first-ever attack on the 24 Hours race by
Cadillac on Pirelli tyres. The car that marks the return of
Cadillac to the Sarthe circuit fifty years after it made its debut,
is called Northstar LMP (LeMans Prototype).

Today the Northstar LMP is a Cadillac packed full of the latest
racing technology, as well as the results of the integrated and
consolidated development between General Motors and Pirelli. The
car is based on a chassis built by Riley&Scott, Pirelli’s
partner in numerous successes obtained on American circuits.

The choice of the Italian tyre manufacturer as exclusive partner
for the Le Mans project, which marks the return of General Motors
to the racetracks, has been dictated by the massive experience
accumulated and the positive results obtained recently by the PZero
circuit-racing tyres.

Victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours is the main aim of the Northstar
project. The project began with the first track tests for the car
in summer 1999, and continued with its race debut this year at the
Daytona 24 Hours: the US ‘classic’ endurance race in February when
the newly-formed Cadillac-Pirelli pairing finished a superb second
and third in their category. Since then, technical development has
continued non-stop in races and tests. The definition of the PZero
tyres for the Cadillac at Le Mans has been and still is a priority
aim for Pirelli Competitizioni, in view of the specific demands of
the 24 hour race and the high-tech content of the Northstar LMP
‘barchetta’.

The tyres that will be required to guarantee hour after hour of
maximum performance and reliability for the Cadillacs are the
result of the most advanced computer aided design techniques. They
naturally bear the marque PZero, which for many years has been
synonymous of the Pirelli high-tech tyre range both on the track
and in rallies as well as on everyday roads (PZero Rosso and PZero
System) and the off-road sector (Scorpion Zero).

One marque, one meaning: Zero means zero limits, the same as the
declared ambition of the Cadillac/Pirelli partnership to win Le
Mans within the next three years. For its debut at Le Mans, some of
the American ‘barchettas’ will be present in the ‘Series 2′
version, an evolution of the car that started the season and with
which the Italian tyres have already notched up numerous successful
reliability and performance tests.

Four Cadillac Northstar LMP on Pirelli tyres will line up at the
Le Mans 24 Hours race: two entered and run directly by the US
manufacturer for Taylor-Van de Poele-Angelelli and
Wallace-Lagorce-Leitzinger; and two entered by the DAMS team,
General Motors’ technological ‘pole’ in Europe, for
Bernard-Collard-Montagny and Tinseau-Goossens-X. As well as these
cars, PZero tyres will also be present at Le Mans with other cars
in the GT3 and SR2 classes, with the following sizes and technical
specifications.

THE PZERO RANGE FOR THE LE MANS 24 HOURS

Around 2,500 tyres, the result of the latest testing
developments and the brilliant results obtained in races both in
America and the SportsCar World Cup, make up the PZero range
available for the Le Mans 24 Hour race.

The Le Mans 24 Hours is a totally unique race, where the demands
placed on tyres change totally as day turns into night. With lower
temperatures and increased humidity during the night, maximum tyre
grip is required, while in the first few hours of the race or at
the end, when daytime temperatures can be quite high, maximum
performance, as well as maximum resistance and reliability are the
key factors.

The following tyres are available for Le Mans in the LMP1
category (LeMans Prototypes or Sports Cars), with sizes and
technical specifications.

FRONT TYRES (325/650-18) REAR TYRES (360/710-18)

Day compound D4
Night compound D5
Qualifying D8
Intermediate W4
Rain tyres W6

AND FOR THE SR2 AND GT3 CARS. . .

FRONT (size 265/645-18)

Compound Day D5 Night D6 Rain W6

REAR (size 305/690-18)

Compound Day D3 Night D4 Rain W6

THE PIRELLI TEAM

2 x Cadillac Northstar LMP (General Motors USA)
Taylor – Van de Poele – Angelelli
Wallace – Lagorce – Leitzinger
2 x Cadillac Northstar LMP (DAMS)

Bernard-Collard-Montagny
Tinseau-Goossens- X
1 x Courage C60-Judd (SMG)

Gache-Formato- X
1 x Panoz Spyder LMP (Den Bla Avis)

Nielsen-Baldi-Graf
1 x Lola B2K/40-Nissan (SR2) (Multimatic Racing)

4 x Porsche GT3
(Skea Racing International) Murray/Maassen/Mowlem

(Haberthur) Rosa/Babini/ X
(Perspective Racing) X – X – X
(Excelsior Club) X – X – X

* “X” indicates that the time of print, these drivers were still
unconfirmed.

Milan, 12 June 2000