MILANPirelli Tyre S.p.A. is stepping up its motorsports programagainfor the coming years, agreeing to supply several new racing series in North America and Europe and extending a number of supply contracts.
In North America, Pirelli has taken up the reins of race tire supplier to two new open-wheel road racing seriesFormula 4 and Formula Litesand disclosed that the Pirelli World Championship for sports cars and sports sedans will be aligned more closely with the similar Blancpain GT Series in Europe.
In Europe, the organizer of the Blancpain GT Series disclosed it extended Pirelli's tire contract five more years, through 2020, and assigned the tire contract for the affiliated British GT Championship to Pirelli as well.
Both Formula 4 and Formula Lites are series designed as affordable competition for young drivers aspiring to ascend to the pinnacles of open-wheel racing, Formula 1 and/or IndyCar.
The North American Formula 4 series, sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America's SCCA Pro Racing division, foresees a 15-race series starting in 2016. The series will be open to drivers 15 years of age and older.
Formula 4 debuted in Europe in 2013 as the first rung in the FIA's formula racing, with Pirelli as a tire supplier to the Italian series starting in 2014. It added the German and United Kingdom series this past season.
The American championship will use a locally developed Crawford chassis powered by a 2-liter four-cylinder Honda engine producing the category-specified 160 horsepower, FIA and SCCA representatives said recently.
The SCCA estimates the cost of a full season of F4 will be approximately $115,000 in 2016.
Rafael Navarro, vice president, communications and motorsports for Pirelli Tire North America, called the F4 series a logical next step for Pirelli, and is consistent with the company's philosophy of promoting young talent. We look forward to working with the partners to build a successful and visible program that helps develop and propel future generations of competitors.
Pirelli already is supplying another, similar open-wheel seriesFormula Litesthat recently completed its first season in the U.S. Its organizers similarly pitch Formula Lites as a sensible price-point opportunity for aspiring drivers to get into serious open-wheel road racing incorporating the latest technology and high-quality engineering.
The car, a Crawford FL-15, is powered by a 220-hp, 2.4-liter, 16-valve Honda 4-cylinder engine and a six-speed sequential gearbox featuring pneumatic paddle shifting, with a turnkey/race-ready price is $120,900.
The partners previewed the car and series concept last November at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas. The SCCA is sanctioning the series, which recently wrapped up its first season.
Pirelli is supplying competitors with Formula 3-derived dry and wet-weather tires, sourced from the company's race tire plant in Turkey. The sizes are: front200/540-13, and rear250/575-13.
Sets of tires cost $1,260. The organizers provide trackside tire/wheel services.
In Europe, Pirelli's engagement in the GT sports car racing arena will be enhanced by a five-year contract to be the spec tire supplier for the British GT Championship, taking the place of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Avon Tyres unit, which has been the series' race tire supplier since 2005 and series title sponsor for the past few years.
Stéphane Ratel Organisation (SRO), the organizing body for both the Blancpain GT and British GT series, signed Pirelli recently for the British series, which this past season averaged more than 30 cars per race throughout the nine-race season.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery called the deal to supply the British GT Championship very important for Pirelli as it represents perfectly our target market: premium and prestige manufacturers.
The tires that we supply for these cars on the road are made to measure for each model, using many of the same design processes and production techniques as are utilized in motorsport. As a result, there is a direct technology transfer between GT racing and the road.
The series features three classes of cars and one-, two- and/or three-hour races, depending on venue. The championship format calls for an obligatory pit stop for a driver change at each race.
The value of the contract was not disclosed.
The announcement follows Pirelli's agreement to extend its supply contract to the Blancpain GT Series, which Pirelli called the world's premier GT championship for race versions of road-going supercars. It is contested by 10-plus manufacturers over a variety of legendary circuits within Europe.
Pirelli will equip competitors with Pirelli P Zero competition tires similar to those used on the Blancpain GT series, which has used Pirelli tires the past few seasons and will continue to do so for the next five years.
Both the Blancpain GT and British GT series include FIA-designated GT3 and GT4 category cars.
GT3 cars are designed to be close to their road-going equivalents to keep maintenance costs to a minimum. Modifications allowed include limited alterations to suspension, engine and bodywork. Among cars in the GT3 category are the Audi R8 LMS ultra, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3, Porsche 997 GT3 R, BMW Z4 GT3, McLaren MP4-12C, Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, Ginetta GT3, Nissan NISMO GT-R GT3, Aston Martin's V12 Vantage and Bentley Continental GT3.
The GT4 categories are even closer to stock and include: Toyota GT86 GT4, Lotus Evora GT4, Nissan 370Z, BMW M3 GT4, Aston Martin GT4 Challenge, Porsche Cup GT4 car and Ginetta G55 and G50.
The Blancpain GT series includes both sprint and endurance races; the championship season traditionally is the Spa 24 Hours at Spa, Belgium.
Pirelli called this its biggest motorsport engagement, requiring as many as 9,000 tires for the Spa event alone.
In 2016, there will be 10 rounds: five endurance and five sprint races.
In 2016, the Blancpain GT and Pirelli World Challenge series in North America will be more closely aligned, as both series' vehicle eligibility regulations will be based on the international GT3 and GT4 rule.
2016 Pirelli World Challengethe series 27th seasonwill feature 11 racing weekends at 10 U.S. circuits and one visit to Canada, including six weekends in partnership with the Verizon IndyCar Series.