Pirelli Tire and the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will bring their record-setting 2009 season to a close this weekend with a full schedule of on-track competition and off-track celebration in the greater Miami area.  Race action begins Saturday October 10th at The Grand Prix of Miami – the 12th and final Grand-Am Rolex Series race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  The year-end Rolex Awards Banquet will be held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 12.

The Grand Prix of Miami is a 2.5-hour sprint on the 2.3-mile, 11-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.  The green flag is scheduled to drop at 1:08 p.m. ET on Saturday, and live coverage can be seen on SPEED beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

In addition to the driver and team championships for both the Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype and Acxiom GT divisions being decided in Saturday’s race, the respective class winners in the new Pirelli P Zero Club program will also be announced.  The P Zero Club is a season-long competition that allows teams to earn points for on-track performance as well as promotional and publicity activity. Like the overall Rolex Series title battles, the P Zero Club points race will also go down to the wire at Homestead with four teams in each class still firmly in the hunt heading into the finale.  The winning P Zero Club Daytona Prototype team will be awarded $50,000 at Monday’s banquet at the Hard Rock while the top GT team will receive a $25,000 bonus.

“We are proud of all of the teams and drivers this year.  Pirelli P Zeros have proven to play an important role Grand-Am Rolex Series competition.  Our involvement in the Pirelli P Zero Club reinforces our focus on excellence,” said Rafael Navarro III, Pirelli Tire North America’s Director of Motorsports and Media Relations.  “Pirelli embraces its rich racing heritage as well as our recognized position as a promotional leader in the motorsports industry and beyond.  The great competitors in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series have allowed us to achieve a great deal of success this year in both areas.”

In the Daytona Prototype driver and team title battles, a three-way fight will go down to the wire in Miami.  Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley lead both championships with 309 points.  The No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle is second in points with 301, and the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas is third with 299 points.

GAINSCO and Ganassi are also two of the four Daytona Prototype teams with a chance at the $50,000 P Zero Club bonus at Homestead.  They are battling with the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley of Mark Wilkins and Burt Frisselle and the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson.  While GAINSCO and Ganassi have combined to win six of the year’s first 11 races, the pair of Ford Riley teams will be looking for their first wins of the season at Miami.

“Homestead is my home race and we always do well here,” said Negri, a Brazilian who now calls Miami home. “After the Rolex 24 we tested at Homestead and we were very quick.  The 2009 tire has performed really well for us this season.  Most of the tracks we were quicker than last year and the tires perform really well from the beginning to the end of the stint. Pirelli this year produced a really good product for us to race with and that will definitely help us this coming weekend.”

Patterson, Negri’s co-driver and the primary principal of the No. 60 team, is also appreciative of the P Zero program.

“Racing at any level is a mixture of athletic prowess, competitive spirit, top flight engineering and the economics of sponsors getting their money’s worth,” Patterson said. “Having Pirelli and their top flight dry and wet tires is almost privilege enough, but to have them go the extra mile and lay out some ransom money for the orneriest teams is something special. This just demonstrates their goodwill and commitment to sports car racing in a very tangible way.”

Pirelli’s technical commitment and expertise also gives competitors some confidence heading to a Homestead-Miami track that is notoriously tough on tires.

“Homestead is probably the hardest track we visit on tires,” Frisselle said.  “With the banking that we run at 170 mph to the slow hairpins that create drag strips, it is extremely hard on tires.  We are lucky Pirelli has done so much testing there and provide the tires that they do.  I would not be surprised to see track records broken and as always great racing.  The key for the drivers is not to abuse your tires early in your stint.

On the Acxiom GT front, No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche GT3 drivers Dirk Werner and Leh Keen have a 30-point lead over No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R pilot Kelly Collins, 329-299.  The No. 87 is also battling the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis for the GT team championship.  The Porsche team leads the Stevenson Pontiac team by 29 points (329-300).

Not surprisingly, both the No. 07 and No. 57 Pontiac teams are also in the hunt for the $25,000 P Zero Club GT bonus.  Both are battling with the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 team and Sylvain Tremblay’s quick No. 70 Castrol Syntec/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.  This is the first time a cash bonus has been offered as a year-end prize for GT teams participating in the P Zero Club or similar programs in the Grand-Am Rolex Series in recent years.

“It shows the commitment to GT that Pirelli includes us in the P Zero club,” said Tremblay, who co-drives the No. 70 Mazda with Nick Ham.  “Having a shot at the GT bonus shows that we are getting the job done both on and off the track.  Motorsports is a great promotional tool.  Pirelli “get it,” and this award is proof that they are putting the effort and the funds to showcase GT to the masses.”

Pirelli has also provided proof of performance to Acxiom GT teams this year and that makes tires just one less thing to worry about heading to a season-ending race with vast implications.

“(I’m) not worried at all about the Pirelli’s performance at Homestead-Miami Speedway,” said Collins, who co-drives the No. 07 Pontiac with Paul Edwards.  “They have been nothing but fantastic all season.  Any small problems we had were addressed right away and fixed.  The weather should not be a problem and the tires should only be better after a year of development.”

This weekend’s race marks the first time in nearly five years that the Grand-Am Rolex Series will race at Miami in the fall rather than early spring.

“Although we will be racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway much later in the year than normal, I don’t expect the weather conditions to be much different than we experience in early spring,” Davis said.  “The combination of warm temperatures and an abrasive track surface will always pose a challenge to a tire manufacturer.  However, I have been extremely impressed with Pirelli’s ability to adapt to these treacherous conditions and provide the Rolex Series with an exceptional tire.”

Rain is always something teams have to anticipate in Florida, but Pirelli has also taken some of the mystery and anxiety out of wet-weather racing.

“The only thing we may have to contend with is wet weather, but we are not worried as the Pirelli wets always perform very well and the car is well balanced in wet or dry conditions,” Lidell said.  “Obviously it has the tendency to rain throughout the summer in Florida in the afternoon so in that regard it could differ from previous years.  In general the tires have performed very well, as expected throughout the season.  Pirelli has also been hugely supportive of all the teams since they got involved with the series and it is nice that they not only provide great tires to race on but some great rewards for the teams and drivers too.”

NOTEWORTHY

- Monday night’s banquet will also see the second annual presentations of the Gianfranco Martelli Award, which is named in honor of the late Pirelli Tire engineer Gianfranco Martelli, who passed away in November, 2007.  Martelli was key part of the technical and engineering team that developed the Grand-Am Rolex Series Pirelli P Zero racing tires.  Although he was never able to see his P Zero racing tires in competition, Pirelli has ensured that Martelli’s memory and incredible contribution to the program is remembered through the award. Presented to both Daytona Prototype and Acxiom GT competitors, the award honors an individual or group from each division that best displays throughout the season the same qualities and characteristics for which Gianfranco Martelli was known: excellence, camaraderie and detailed perfection.

- The Grand Prix of Miami will also be the grand finale of the season-long Chip Foose – Pirelli Edition Ford Flex Giveaway. The tune-in promotion that was launched in partnership with SPEED and Grand-Am in April will see 10 winners from all over the country arrive in Miami this weekend where one of them will win the keys to the Foose-designed Ford Flex in a special Saturday morning trackside contest.

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. Located in Rome, Georgia, Pirelli’s Modular Integrated Robotized System (MIRS) employs state-of-the-art technology to manufacture tires for both export and domestic markets.  For more information please visit www.us.pirelli.com.