Pirelli returns to endurance racing this weekend with the opening round of the FIA GT1 World Championship, which this year is combined with the GT3 European Championship for the first time. Pirelli will be the sole supplier to both series, adding to the Italian firm’s illustrious portfolio of more than 50 motorsport championships all over the world.
The FIA GT1 World Championship takes places over a wide range of exciting new circuits, with races in China, Russia and India, as well as at traditional venues such as Zolder in Belgium. Manufacturers represented in the championship include Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and McLaren: all of which use Pirelli P Zero tyres as original equipment on their road cars.
The first round of the World and European series takes place this weekend at Nogaro in south west France: a circuit that combines fast straights with some tight and twisty technical sections. This picturesque track is the perfect venue for Pirelli to demonstrate the capabilities of its new P Zero DH slicks (for dry conditions) and P Zero WH wet tyres. With the championship rules pairing amateurs with professional drivers, versatility is the key to these specially-developed tyres, which are noted for their performance combined with ease of use: virtues that the directly related P Zero road car tyres also share.
For Pirelli, the return to the FIA GT Championship represents a homecoming. The Italian firm has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, ranging from the Le Mans 24 Hours (which it won in 1954 with Maurice Trintignant, Froilan Gonzalez and Ferrari) to recent multiple titles in the American-based Grand Am series.
Pirelli has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world, as well as supplying exclusive one-make series such as the Ferrari Challenge and Maserati Trofeo. Alongside the company’s Formula One commitment, these engagements in endurance racing underline Pirelli’s reputation as the world leader in the Ultra High Performance sector.
The FIA GT1 World Championship is a global sports car series consisting of 10 rounds in total. The series focuses on all the most iconic sports car brands in the world, using racing cars that look outwardly similar to their road-going equivalents.
The GT1 category is aimed at top professional drivers, while amateurs can compete in GT3. Tyre changes during the pit stops (permitted in GT1 but not GT3) and qualifying are important features of the action, putting the emphasis on strategy as well as speed.
Only two types of P Zero tyre are used – P Zero DH and P Zero WH – each with its own compound, but the sizes vary to best suit each competing car. These tyres are developed to suit the characteristics of each individual vehicle design, bearing in mind factors such as wheel size, weight distribution and drivetrain layout, so that similar fitments can be developed for cars in the same configuration. The challenge for the drivers and the engineers is to get the best out of these tyres. In total, these new tyres are homologated for 14 different makes of car, ranging from the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 to the newly-launched McLaren MP4-12C. The versatility of Pirelli’s new GT tyres are reflected in the multi-faceted attributes of the equivalent P Zero road tyres.
During the pre-event test in Nogaro earlier this week, the drivers had the chance to try out Pirelli’s new GT tyres for the first time. All of them unanimously praised the versatility and driveability of the new tyres – but the real test will come during qualifying on Saturday and the two one-hour races on Sunday.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “We believe that the FIA GT Championship is one of the most directly relevant motorsport series to the core of our business: supplying the best Ultra High Performance tyres in the world. This is because the cars we see on this championship so closely resemble the supercars that we supply on the road. Our objective for the series is to produce a consistent and effective tyre, which offers good performance over a short stint for GT1 but at the same time enough durability to last for the entire race, as needed by the GT3 category where pit stops are not allowed. Although all the cars competing are very different, we aim to provide a tyre that works equally well for all of them, in order to highlight the skills of the drivers and the different strategies employed by the teams. Our latest GT racing campaign underlines not only the durability and speed of our tyres, but also our ability to adapt to the extremely different demands of all the various championships we compete in.”
FIA GT1 World Championship calendar 2012:
1.Nogaro (France) 6-9 April
2.Zolder (Belgium) 20-22 April
3.Navarra (Spain) 26-28 May
4.Slovakia Ring (Slovakia) 8-10 June
5.Algarve (Portugal) 6-8 July
6.Beijing (China) 24-25 August
7.Ordos (China) 30 August-2 September
8.Korean International Circuit (Korea) 14-16 September
9.Moscow (Russia) 29-30 September
10. Delhi (India) 30 November-2 December