June 4, 2009


WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Round 5 of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 begins at Watkins Glen this Saturday for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen – Grand-Am’s first endurance race since January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Coverage of this weekend’s six-hour endurance race on the historic 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International road course will be broadcast live on SPEED in two parts: beginning 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT), Saturday, June 6, continuing again live at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT) until the checkered flag flies.

To meet the challenge of a full field of Grand-Am Rolex Series Daytona Prototype and GT cars in what basically amounts to an all-out six hour sprint race, Pirelli Tire North America already has in place at Watkins Glen a full complement of P Zero racing tires and ample support personnel and equipment. The massive effort includes 2,200 P Zero racing slicks, 800 P Zero rain tires, seven tire engineers, 20 technicians and seven support trucks.

“I think the Pirelli tire has just been outstanding this year,” said former Daytona Prototype race-winner Michael Valiante – in his first year with the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley team. “It (P Zero) has been extremely quick and very consistent. There really isn’t anything else I can think that you could possibly ask for out of a tire. They have been excellent.”

Valiante – who finished second at VIR and set the fastest race lap right at the checkered flag at New Jersey Motorsports Park – teams with John Pew, who was part of the winning driver line-up that took the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley to victory in last year’s season-ending 1000K race at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, Utah.

At about seven hours in length, the Utah race is similar in strategy and approach to the Sahlen’s Six Hours. That bodes well for Michael Shank Racing as the team’s No. 60 Riley also won at Miller in 2006 with Oswaldo Negri Jr. and Mark Patterson behind the wheel. Both Shank entries have shown well at Watkins Glen in the past and each team is looking for its first win Saturday. Patterson knows that the Pirelli P Zeros will be up to the task.

“The endurance and reliability of the Pirelli product is second to none,” said Patterson, in his fifth season co-driving with Negri. “Drivers need to know they can rely on the tires early in the stint when they are still fresh and the fuel load is at the maximum, and later when the fuel load is lighter and each pass makes or breaks your rankings in the championship. This is crucial in endurance racing when you may opt to not change tires in a tight pit stop window and instead stretch a set of tires to the end of the race.”

While Shank’s Daytona Prototype entries will be seeking their first victories at Watkins Glen this weekend, the GT team that captured its maiden win at the track last year in the Sahlen’s Six Hours will be looking for a repeat Saturday. The No. 69 FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of Emil Assentato, Nick Longhi and Jeff Segal won its first ever race in last year’s six hour classic and the Pirelli P Zeros were there for the trio all the way to the checkered flag. Segal also put the No. 69 Mazda on the GT pole for the first time in that race.

“The Pirellis have always impressed us. Not only with their speed and grip out of the box, but also with their consistency,” said Segal, who joins the team for the endurance races. “Last year at Watkins Glen we were obviously pretty quick and won the pole; but the more important fact was that we were able to lap quickly throughout a stint, even in high temperatures. When we set up the car, our aim is always to have a car that doesn’t fall off at the end of a long hard stint. The Pirelli tires have always complemented this goal very nicely.”

Like Segal, Longhi has experience with Pirellis in the Ferrari Challenge series, and he was also impressed with the Grand-Am P Zeros at The Glen last year.

“Last year, excellent wear from our Pirelli tires was key to our pace at Watkins Glen,” said Longhi, who is Assentato’s full-season teammate. “Our FXDD/SpeedSource Mazda was as fast at the end of a stint as it was at the beginning – and that is a credit to Pirelli’s work as much as to the chassis set-up Marty Kintzi and David Haskell put on the car. SpeedSource, Mazda and Pirelli make for a great combination, and we could not be happier with the contribution Pirelli has made”.

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


Media Contacts:
Rafael Navarro, Director Communications & Motorsports

Joe Severns, Public Relations Manager