Ready to feel the GT roar
SETTING THE SCENE
The historic picturesque Imola circuit in Italy plays host to the start of the GT World Challenge Europe campaign, with a three-hour Endurance Cup race the first of 10 race weekends to be held across the 2022 season.
Operated by SRO Motorsports, GT World Challenge is present in four continents around the world: Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. The season is split into two distinct competitions, the Endurance and Sprint Cup which each contribute to the overall standings at the end of the year.
Ahead of the first round of the season, Team WRT Audi's Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts are the defending overall and Sprint Cup champions, while Iron Lynx are the reigning overall Teams' champions thanks to Alessandro Pier Guidi, Come Ledogar and Nicklas Nielsen's Drivers' title last year in a Ferrari.
Nine brands are represented in GTWC this season: Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche. It is one of the most competitive GT fields in the world, attracting a mixture of seasoned veterans and former Formula 1 drivers alike. And supplying the tyres for the 12th consecutive year is Pirelli.
A HERO TAKES TO THE TRACK
Making his GT racing debut this year will be MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi; the nine-time world champion hung up his motorcycle boots last season and will drive an WRT Audi R8 GT3.
“The car is very good to drive, it's a very strong race car,” said Rossi. “This is a new adventure, it's a new world. Especially we need to understand my level, my speed, because we don't know. I hope to be competitive, to fight for the podium.”
An impressive 52 cars have entered the Endurance Cup season this year, with Audi boasting the highest number of entries with 12; Mercedes will field 11 cars while Lamborghini has nine cars.
In the Sprint Cup – which features two one-hour races per weekend – Audi fields 11 cars while Mercedes has five entries.
A partner since the inception of GT3 regulations in 2013, Pirelli will again be at the forefront of the GT season this year, as it debuts the new P Zero DHF slick tyre which will be fitted to every GT3, GT4 and GT2 car.
The tyre is an evolution of the outgoing DHE compound and will provide increased grip and performance over one-lap as well as longer endurance stints.
EVERY LAP COUNTS
And it's not just the cars and drivers that take centre stage. The races are high on the bucket list of every driver in the field.
GT competition makes up a large proportion of Pirelli's racing activities and provides the company with its biggest single event of the year: the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium. This is the jewel in the crown race on the GT World Challenge calendar. Pirelli regularly supplies around 13,000 tyres across the entire Spa weekend, including those for the support championships.
Pirelli's GT racing activities extends to a multitude of national championships as well, such as Italian GT, British GT, FFSA GT and ADAC GT Masters.
In total, Pirelli is active in more than 350 car championships over all five continents. These diverse programmes range from open competition – with up to 20 manufacturers represented – to important single-make series such as the Ferrari Challenge and Lamborghini Super Trofeo.
The GT World Challenge Europe series visits some of the most iconic racetracks on the continent, such as Paul Ricard, Monza, Brands Hatch and Hockenheim, while across the Atlantic, venues include Laguna Seca, Circuit of the Americas in Texas, Watkins Glen, Road America and the new Ozarks International Circuit in Missouri.
Whatever the series, competitors are given the same opportunity to fight for overall and class victories, as a Balance of Performance (BOP) is applied across the grid to ensure fair competition.
This ensures that the drivers and cars are closely matched: after 24 hours of racing, the competitors are sometimes separated by just tenths of a second.