With long straights, sustained high speeds, very big kerbs and high-energy loadings, Monza is one of the biggest challenges of the year for the tyres. A tyre that is strong in Monza will be strong on any other circuit, such is the intense work-out that the tyres are subjected to, with the highest average speed of the season.
This year, Pirelli supplies the new Blancpain GT Series on an exclusive basis, which takes in both the Blancpain Endurance Series and the Blancpain Sprint Series. The first round of the Endurance Series was at Pirelli’s home circuit of Monza, with the Italian rubber helping to ensure a closely-fought race that was won by the ART Grand Prix line-up of Alvaro Parente, Alexandre Premat and Gregoire Demoustier. In second place was the Audi of Stephane Ortelli, Gregory Guilvert and Edward Sandstrom.
Temperatures on track peaked at 35 degrees centigrade, increasing the workload on the Pirelli P Zero slick tyre that was supplied to all the teams. With a maximum of five sets allowed for the weekend, the teams used three sets of tyres for the three-hour race, changing them with each compulsory driver switch as stated by the regulations.
Underlining the popularity of the Blancpain GT Series, which uses cars based on high-performance road models, was a 39-car grid at the start of the three-hour race, which was run at an average speed of 190.5kph. The level of performance has been increased this year, with average speeds generally more than half a second per lap faster than they were at Monza last year.
Although this is endurance racing, there were plenty of wheel-to-wheel battles that kept spectators entertained, throughout the Pro, Pro Am and Gentlemen category. Despite having to cope with demanding track conditions and a huge variety of cars and driving abilities, the P Zero tyres performed impeccably from start to finish. Most of the high-performance brands represented on the Blancpain GT Series use Pirelli as original equipment, including Bentley, which made its Blancpain GT Series debut with the new Continental GT3.
Before the start of the race, Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery hosted a press briefing for international media at Pirelli’s hospitality unit. He spoke of the importance of GT racing to Pirelli, the crossover of technology between road and track that the championship enables, and the Italian firm’s future ambitions in endurance racing. With Pirelli aiming to be the world leader in Ultra High Performance tyres, a competition programme using cars that are similar to those seen in supercar showrooms is vital.
As well as the main Blancpain Endurance Series race, Pirelli also equipped the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo: the world’s fastest one-make series. Race one was won by Andrea Palma while in Race Two Edoardo Piscopo and Milos Pavlovich triumphed.
Pirelli’s senior engineer Matteo Braga commented: “Monza is one of the toughest tests that our tyres face all year on the Blancpain Endurance Series, with a long race and some extremely challenging driving conditions: especially with the sustained high speeds and kerbing. This year we modified the product slightly at the rear in order to provide greater reliability and durability. We could see the result through the tyre usage during the race, where we were able to measure the consistency of the product, which allowed the drivers to fight for the podium right up to the final laps. We’re very pleased to see once more the high level of competition and professionalism in the championship, both on and off the track, which has allowed the teams to get the best out of our tyres throughout the weekend.”
While both the endurance and sprint championships have their own separate rankings, there will also be an overall Blancpain GT Series title for the highest-scoring driver and team to contest both series. The winner of the overall series will receive a €100,000 prize fund from the organiser, as well as a tyre prize from Pirelli for the top three in the championship.
The next round of the Blancpain GT Series will be the opening Sprint Series encounter at Nogaro, France, from April 18-21.