Pirelli era in Grand-AM Rolex sports car series comes to a record-setting conclusion in season-ending Utah 250
Pirelli put the wraps on a highly-successful three-year run as the “Official Tire Supplier” of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 with another record-setting performance in Saturday’s season-ending Utah 250 at Miller Motorsports Park.
Pirelli went in to what was both its season and series finale with an incredible 147 qualifying, race and race lap records to its credit since partnering with the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series in 2008 and left with over 150 records – 153 to be exact – by the time the weekend was over.
The new record additions in the Daytona Prototype category all came from the race and championship-winning No. 01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Racing BMW Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas that established Daytona Prototype qualifying, race and race lap records on Miller’s 3.048-mile outer course layout to put the exclamation point on the most successful single-car season in series history. The No. 01 won a record nine of 12 races this year and lead driver Pruett gave some of the credit to Pirelli’s performance both this year and in past seasons.
“We are going to miss Pirelli for sure and they have done just a terrific job,” Pruett said. “They have by far exceeded everybody’s expectation this year. To have to make just one tire and one compound for every track is a very tall challenge. From what we have seen from Pirelli, and what they have done, and the performance they have had race in and race out has been absolutely spectacular from my point of view.”
While Pruett, Rojas and the No. 01 Ganassi team were wrapping up Daytona Prototype honors and fittingly delivering Pirelli’s final Daytona Prototype records, the No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 GT of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal clinched the GT class team and driver championships with a sixth-place finish. The titles are the first for Assentato, Segal, SPEEDSOURCE and Mazda in GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition.
“When I came into the Rolex Series, my first year was also Pirelli’s first year,” Segal said. “It was great kind of learning the car together with the Pirellis. Everybody was on a new tire, it was new to everybody else, so it kind of cut down on that learning curve and allowed us to get that first win in the Watkins Glen six-hour race in my first year. It has just really been enjoyable working with Pirelli. The tires are really gratifying to drive on, and I know that sounds strange, but they have such high grip the lap times are so fast and it is just a lot of fun to drive the car.”
While the No. 69 wrapped up the GT championships, several other teams joined with Pirelli to set new GT records on Miller’s outer course. The class-winning No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro GT.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis established a race record of 90.350 mph while Eric Curran set the qualifying mark in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Marsh Racing Corvette when he won the pole on Friday with a lap time of 1:51.659 (98.271 mph). The fastest race lap record was established by Paul Edwards in the No. 07 Banner Racing Chevrolet Corvette who turned a 1:52.507 flyer on lap 56.
Pirelli’s P Zero Bonus Club also wrapped up a popular and record-setting season at the Miller finale with a “wild card” event open to all eligible teams. The No. 01 team pocketed its first P Zero Club Bonus since winning March’s Grand Prix of Miami, but this time cashed in with a “double rollover” $15,000 payday that had been building the last two races. The No. 01’s total P Zero Bonus Club earnings for the season was $20,000, matching the single-race take earned by the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Chevrolet Riley team for its first victory of the season at New Jersey Motorsports Park in July. Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty finished second Saturday in the No. 99 while Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli finished third in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara.
On the P Zero Bonus Club GT front, the No. 57 earned a single-race bonus of $5,000 for its first win after the No. 07 won a record $35,000 one race ago in the Montreal 200. The P Zero Bonus Club was an incentive program 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.
Next up for Pirelli and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series is the season-ending Rolex Awards Banquet at Aria Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, Monday night, September 13. There, Pirelli executives will present special year-end P Zero Club Bonuses to the top Daytona Prototype and GT teams that went the extra mile in the promotion of the series this season. The event will also see the presentation of the annual Gianfranco Martelli Award to the deserving Daytona Prototype and GT competitors who best reflected the professionalism and dedication of the late Pirelli engineer. Martelli was instrumental in the development of the very first Pirelli P Zero GRAND-AM Rolex Series tires, but passed away before he could see the tires in competition for the first time at the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Pirelli has presented the Martelli Award in his honor since that first season of competition.