Pirelli’s record-setting and highly successful three-year run in the Grand-Am Rolex sports car series concludes this week at the Utah 250
A highly-successful and record-setting run for Pirelli as the “Official Tire Supplier” of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will conclude at this weekend’s season-ending race, the Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park, September 10 – 11.
Heading into the final GRAND-AM race of the Pirelli era this weekend, Pirelli has tallied an impressive record that has contributed to Daytona Prototype and GT competitors setting a massive 147 qualifying, race and race laps records since it partnered with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2008. GRAND-AM’s Daytona Prototype and GT competitors will race in Saturday’s Utah 250 on Miller’s 3.048-mile outer course layout for the first time – which can be seen live on SPEED – Saturday, September 11 at 2 pm EST/11 am PST.
“We are very proud of the performance of the Pirelli P Zero racing tires throughout our tenure as the official tire supplier of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series” said Tom Gravalos, Pirelli Tire North America’s Vice-President of Marketing, Motorsports and Original Equipment. “Beginning in 2008, Pirelli brought an unprecedented level of competition, speed, safety and technical innovation to the series, and our outstanding Pirelli engineers and technicians proved they were up to the challenge of the ultra-competitive series. Pirelli is able to utilize this platform for dealer and consumer outreach, and to showcase our brand heritage of performance, particularly through the P Zero family of products. Excellence on the track is directly related to our street tire program, and with recent awards by JD Power & Associates and No. 1 ratings by the world’s authorities on tire testing and quality, we are able to demonstrate our technical prowess and our commitment to innovation and safety.”
While the Pirelli era of GRAND-AM racing is on track to produce more than 147 official on-track records, numerous other milestones, historical achievements, additional records and incredible accomplishments on and off the race track also stand out. One of the first notable achievements came early on when Pirelli set the tone for its tenure in GRAND-AM by just meeting the colossal logistical and volume demands for its debut in the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
“Pirelli’s motorsport heritage, with over a century of winning behind us and a global network of R&D, manufacturing and technical support available, means that we are able to meet the demands of our partner championships head-on,” said Rafael Navarro, III, Pirelli Tire North America’s Director of Motorsports and Media Relations. “Our first Rolex 24 back in 2008 was like completing a full year of competition before the first green flag even waved, as the logistics and engineering demands were high. We met the challenge, and successfully and started each season with the Rolex 24, and all of the testing that precedes it. Our outstanding technical and field personnel would accomplish in well under two months what was realistically more than a year’s worth of planning and preparation, but we delivered with flying colors.”
The foundation for Pirelli’s success over the next three years was established with its first Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the record-setting continued one race later at the Grand Prix of Miami, in March of 2008, and continued straight through the Montreal 200 just two weeks ago at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where lap records were once again set in both classes in qualifying and the race.
“We set the tone for our entire three years in GRAND-AM by delivering excellent, safe and technically superior product and support,” Navarro continued. “We conclude our GRAND-AM relationship proud of not only the Rolex Series competitors but also the Pirelli team members who played a role in making this program the success that it is. We were able to smash existing qualifying and race-lap records in both the Daytona Prototype and GT divisions. We made GRAND-AM more competitive, attested by the fact that in our first race at Daytona, a record 64 overall lead changes were accomplished – a record that still stands today.”
Among Pirelli’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series highlights include records, milestones and achievements over the past three seasons:
- FANTASTIC FINISHES: Eight of the 10 closest race finishes in Daytona Prototype history – including six of the top seven – came in the Pirelli era, including the closest finish in class history in the 2008 Montreal 200. In that race, Mark Wilkins brought the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley across the finish line just .064 of a second ahead of Antonio Garcia in the No. 39 Crown Royal/Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote. Montreal edged the previous closest finish which was ironically set just one race earlier in the 2008 Brumos Porsche 250 At Daytona where Scott Pruett in the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley nipped the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney by .081 of a second.
- DAY-LONG RECORD: One-year after its successful debut, the 47th Annual 2009 Rolex 24 At Daytona put Pirelli in an even bigger spotlight. When the checkered flag flew, a mere fraction of a second separated first place from second, and only a few seconds more separated third and fourth places. At the line, David Donohue and the No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley edged 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula 1 veteran Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley by a scant .167 of a second for the victory. The finish was the closest overall margin of victory in major international 24-hour race history.
- FASTEST EVER: In last month’s Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen, Pruett and Memo Rojas co-drove to victory averaging a Daytona Prototype record 120.679 mph in the No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley. The average speed for the two-hour sprint is the fastest Daytona Prototype race in history.
- HOT AND COLD: Pirelli also endured searing heat and humidity and record cold temperatures the past three seasons, prevailing over both extremes for close and safe competition in any conditions. High temperatures and a heat index usually well into the 100-degree range were normal for most races at Barber Motorsports Park, in Birmingham, Ala., and in the Rolex Series’ annual return to Daytona each July. On the cold side of the equation, the annual Rolex 24 Test Days at Daytona early this past January were run in the coldest temperatures to hit central Florida in 40 years. Overnight temperatures regularly dipped into the 20s while the coldest running conditions on track came during Saturday’s night practice with the thermometer hovering right at and below the 32 degree freezing mark. Despite the unprecedented challenge, the performance of the Pirellis didn’t miss a beat.
- P ZERO BONUSES: After supporting an existing program in its first two seasons, Pirelli partnered with GRAND-AM in 2010 in unveiling the popular Pirelli P Zero Club Bonus Program. The incentive program is posted for the top-10 returning teams in the 2009 Daytona Prototype and GT points standings. First time 2010 victories for eligible teams saw them earn a $5,000 Pirelli P Zero Bonus, with any unclaimed bonuses “rolling” to the following race. The unique format created a record $20,000 Daytona Prototype payout for the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet Riley for its first win of the season at the New Jersey Motorsports Park 250 and an overall and GT record payout of $35,000 to the No. 07 Banner Racing Chevrolet Corvette team of Paul Edwards and motorcycle road racing legend Scott Russell for a win one race ago in Montreal. This weekend’s finale in Utah is a wild card event open to all eligible teams with a “double rollover” bonus of $15,000 on the line in Daytona Prototypes and $5,000 in GT after Banner’s Montreal windfall.
- PIRELLI PROMOTIONS: For the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Pirelli has partnered with GRAND-AM, SPEED and Foose Design to bring fans two truly unique promotional sweepstakes. In the first of two “tune-in” promotions, one lucky race fan won the Chip Foose Pirelli Edition Ford Flex in 2009, and in 2010 a fortunate race fan will win the Dempsey Racing inspired Pirelli Edition RX-8 by Foose Design. The winner of the 2010 sweepstakes will be announced at Saturday’s Utah 250.
Saturday’s Utah 250 can be seen live on SPEED – Saturday, September 11 at 2 pm EST/11 am PST.
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.