Pirelli opens 2009 North American Motorsport season at 24 Hrs of Daytona

24 hours of excitement in store for competitors and race fans as the 47th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona nears

Daytona, Fl January 22, 2009 - Pirelli readies itself for one of the biggest challenges in racing as the tasks of preparing for the 47th Annual 24 Hours of Daytona begin. The Italian tire manufacturer is among the premier international companies, teams and drivers making their way to Daytona International Speedway for the 24 hour endurance race, scheduled for a 3:30PM start on Saturday, January 24. 

Pirelli is just one of the blue chip brands heading to Daytona for the season-opening race in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.  In addition to international icons Rolex and Crown Royal, Pirelli will share the stage in the day-long race with globally recognized racing standard-bearers like Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Lola, Dallara and American powerhouses Pontiac, Ford, Riley and Crawford. 

Two-time defending Daytona 24 champions Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Pruett will be joined on this year's entry list by Scott Dixon, Jimmie Johnson, Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick, Casey Mears, Buddy Rice, Ryan Briscoe, Kyle Petty and sports car racing champions Andy Wallace, Alex Gurney, Timo Bernhard, Jon Fogarty, Max Angelelli, Romain Dumas, Hurley Haywood, Wayne Taylor, Jorg Bergmeister, Max Papis, Sascha Maassen and many more.  Stars from two-wheeled racing and tinsel town are also part of the Rolex 24 mix with motorcycle racing greats Scott Russell, Jeff Ward and Jason Pridmore heading to Daytona in addition to top movie and television actor - and emerging racing talent - Patrick Dempsey, star of Grey's Anatomy, one of the most successful shows on television.

Despite the different backgrounds and home cities, states or countries of the competitors, the one unifying factor at Daytona will be the Pirelli P Zero Racing.

Slicks mounted to each Daytona Prototype and GT class race car for the second consecutive year.  Pirelli debuted as the Official Tire of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series in 2008, and if this year's tire testing is any indicator, Pirelli will achieve similar record-setting results this season as they did in 2008.  Pre-season testing at Daytona revealed that the 2009 Pirelli P Zero Grand-Am Rolex Series tires seems to have all of the competitive characteristics of last year's inaugural model, and even more durability and lasting performance.  All of those attributes come into play in a race as demanding as the Rolex 24 and several top drivers will take to the 3.56-mile Daytona road course knowing that the Pirellis will be with them for the long haul, through both the day and night.

"I am very happy with the Pirelli tires," said No. 58 Brumos Porsche Riley Daytona Prototype driver Darren Law.  "They have been fast, consistent and they wear well, which is especially critical in a 24-hour endurance race.  The car performs well with them."

Law, who set the fastest overall lap time in annual Rolex 24 Daytona Test Days earlier this month, will share the No. 58 Brumos Porsche with primary co-driver David Donohue, Indianapolis 500 winner Rice and Spain's Antonio Garcia.

"Daytona is always an extreme situation because of cold weather and racing at night; so we need to be careful and take car of our tires - but we will all be in the same boat.  To find a tire compound that can handle the cold of Daytona and when it is extremely hot, like at Barber Motorsports Park, isn't easy but Pirelli did the job.  I feel that the future for this season and beyond is good."

Angelelli and Taylor won the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona with SunTrust.  The duo will be looking for a repeat win and their first in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing with Angelelli's new primary co-driver for this year's race Brian Frisselle and former Formula 1 driver Pedro Lamy.

"The tires are very consistent and, considering that only one type of tire must fulfill a range of extreme conditions, Pirelli has achieved an exceptional result," Angelelli said.

"I expect the Pirelli tires to hold up very well for the Rolex 24," Frisselle said.  "So far the tires have been consistent in testing and have been much easier to drive when they are cold.  I expect the tires to work great; but as drivers we need to take care of them too."

Dallaras have won races in a variety of championships around the world, but this year's Rolex 24 marks the first time one of the Italian company's Daytona Prototypes will seek a Rolex 24 title.  They will be joined by a pair of potent.

Lolas from Krohn Racing that will also be taking a shot at their first Daytona Prototype victory at Daytona.  Although each constructor has recorded overall wins in the Rolex 24 in the past, a victory in the ultra-competitive Daytona Prototype era on Pirelli P Zeros would be a stand-alone achievement.
"The Pirelli tires have been performing very consistent and good in testing," said No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola driver Nic Jonsson, who will co-drive with Darren Turner and former Formula 1 driver Ricardo Zonta.  "I do believe Pirelli is giving us a very safe, good and consistent product.  That is very important, especially for endurance racing.  I am really looking forward to working closely with the Pirelli engineers this year to try to get our Krohn Racing Proto-Auto Lola cars up to the front for the whole season.  The first race, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, is going to be very exciting when we run on the new Pirelli tire after all of the positive test miles we have had on the Pirellis up to this point.  Pirelli has a lot of track records and wins in the endurance field of motor racing and I'm glad that they have come in to the Grand-Am Rolex Series to supply us with the latest in tire technology and engineering."

"With Pirelli joining the Rolex Series for the 2008 season, there was a certain excitement brought back into the on-track action," said Andrew Davis, driver of the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac.  "Last year's tire complemented the Stevenson Motorsports BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R perfectly, and certainly played a significant role in helping us to a strong second place finish in the 2008 GT championship.  I am very pleased to see that Pirelli has been working so hard during the off-season to create an even better product for the 2009 season.  So far, the initial tests lead me to believe that the new tire will again lend to the close racing that is associated with the Grand-AM Rolex Series."

Keeping teams and drivers up to speed on that technology and engineering is no small task for a Pirelli at a race as big as the Rolex 24.  Thousands of Pirelli P Zero racing slicks and rain tires have already been shipped to Florida and soon they will be joined by an international contingent of Pirelli personnel and support equipment.

"Our efforts this year will include over 100 personnel and 20 trucks of tires and supplies, a veritable convoy of material and activity to support this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona," said Gianluca Grioni, Motorsport Manager for Pirelli Tire North America.  "The preparations for a race of this length and caliber are demanding from both a logistical and physical standpoint.  We take pride in knowing that Pirelli offers teams the best quality tires and service made possible by our 100-plus years of experience in motorsport."

The Rolex 24 at Daytona will start at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, January 24, with live coverage on FOX beginning at 3 p.m. EST.  FOX will broadcast the opening 90 minutes of the race before SPEED takes over for the balance of the broadcast.

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.