Pirelli Tire kicked off its 2009 North American racing season this past January with a record-setting Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Rolex 24 at Daytona.  Since then, it has been preparing for the rest of the 2009 Grand-Am season, which begins this weekend with the challenging Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).  In addition, another key component of Pirelli’s U.S. Motorsport program will begin its racing schedule on VIR’s 3.27 mile course this weekend as well.  The Volkswagen TDI Cup kicks off its sophomore year of racing on Saturday and Sunday.  2009 is Pirelli’s first season of racing with the VW TDI Cup, and it promises to be a great one.

Round 2 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series can be seen live on SPEED at 2:30 p.m. ET).  Fans at VIR can also enjoy this weekend’s two-race season opener for the Volkswagen TDI Cup.

After successfully debuting in 2008 as the “Official Tire of Grand-Am” in the Rolex Sports Car Series, Pirelli entered into a similar partnership with the VW TDI Cup series for its sophomore season.  Just as all Grand-Am Rolex Series cars race on Pirellis exclusively, so too will all VW TDI Cup cars.

Pirelli Motorsport is the newest addition to the TDI Cup program, which is the perfect complement to its Grand-Am Rolex Series partnership. With its innovative approach to motorsports, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup was founded in 2008 and is comprised of 30 factory-prepared and managed 2009 clean-diesel Jetta TDIs driven by emerging young drivers ranging in age from 16 to 26.  The concept of the Jetta TDI Cup is as revolutionary as the cars raced, and each is powered by a 2.0- liter four-cylinder TDI clean diesel engine.  The street version of the Jetta TDI – which is nearly identical to the race version – was also recently awarded the 2009 Green Car of the Year award by Green Car Journal.

“Pirelli P Zeros were largely credited with increased performance and competition in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series last year and we expect to see the same enhanced performance in the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup,” said Rafael Navarro III, Pirelli Tire North America’s Director of Motorsport and Media Communications.  “Just as important, our relationship with the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup gives us the ideal partner to help Pirelli Motorsport continue to meet its goals in the development of more eco-friendly and green products as well as develop a relationship with up-and-coming race car drivers.”

The partnership also developed two Pirelli-sponsored Jetta TDIs competing in every race this season.  Race 1 at VIR will take the green flag at 11:10 a.m. ET on Saturday while Race 2 of the opening weekend doubleheader will take place Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.  A total of 10 races will make up the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup season.

PIRELLI P ZERO CLUB

Cash bonuses and more are on the line this season for some of the top performing regular competitors in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.  Working with Grand-Am in the off season, Pirelli Tire revamped what was formerly known as the Pacesetter Program to create a broader payout structure and additional bonuses for competitors that go the extra mile in helping Pirelli promote its P Zero racing tires and the Pirelli brand in general.

To be eligible to take part in the Pirelli P Zero Club, teams must have placed as either one of the top 15 Daytona Prototypes or a top 10 GT team from the 2008 season point standings.  Teams will earn $1,000 bonuses at each race this season in exchange for full support of race event promotions and similar tasks, but the biggest changes have come in the year-end awards.  The Daytona Prototype Pirelli P Zero Club team that earns the most program points in 2009 will be awarded $50,000 while the top GT team will earn a $25,000 bonus.

The potential for even more Pirelli bonuses for top performing Rolex Series competitors, both on and off the track, is another highlight of the expanded program in 2009.  Pirelli is awarding drivers and top team managers that are going out of their way to make sure the Pirelli P Zero brand is at the forefront in media interviews and other PR opportunities. Brumos Racing Porsche driver and 2003 Daytona Prototype Champion Terry Borcheller was among the standout performers for Pirelli at the Rolex 24 and the company let him know how much it was appreciated.

“We are very happy with the restructured Pirelli P Zero Club and how it awards not only the top Daytona Prototype teams but also the equally dedicated GT teams all season and at the end of the year,” Navarro said.  “We also look forward to recognizing and awarding drivers that regularly help us promote Pirelli and its products.  Their efforts don’t go unnoticed, and now we have a way of showing our appreciation.” 

BY THE NUMBERS

With a strong field of Grand-Am Rolex Series race cars and up to 30 Jetta TDIs all depending on Pirelli P Zero performance in both dry and wet conditions this weekend, Pirelli has a large inventory of tires and a top team of personnel already on hand at VIR.  A total of  2200 Pirelli P Zero slick and grooved rain tires are at the ready while 20 engineers and tire technicians from all around the world will literally keep the competition rolling.  The entire operation is housed in the Pirelli service support area in the center of the VIR paddock that includes no less than 5 transporters and a variety of service equipment.

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