Pirelli prepares for the Daytona 24 Hours with several top Champions

More than sixty cars took part in the test sessions for Daytona's endurance classic, which takes place at the end of this month. Five Indianapolis winners were present in Daytona for the test, as well as 2007 NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson and about ten former F1 drivers.

Daytona Beach, USA, 6 January 2008- A total of 62 cars, including both prototypes and GT machinery, completed the first session of official testing for the Daytona 24 Hours in three weeks time. This classic event is the highlight of the Grand Am calendar, an endurance racing championship that will have Pirelli as its official tyre supplier from 2008 to 2010. The progress made with the switch to PZero Racing tyres can be seen from the fact that the best time set in just free practice was already more than two seconds quicker than the 2007 pole time.

With three days of testing in a wide variety of weather conditions including both sunshine, wind and rain, but also low temperatures reaching only just above zero  the session marked a genuine technical renaissance for the Grand Am series. As well as seeing all the competitors run on Pirelli PZero tyres for the first time, the Daytona test witnessed the debut of new cars such as the Coyote (formerly Fabcar) of Cheever Racing, the new Lolas (run by Krohn Racing) and no fewer than six new Riley chassis, powered by engines from prestigious manufacturers like Porsche, Pontiac, Lexus, Ford and BMW. The BMW M6 and Ferrari 430GT also made their debuts in the GT class. They will face established rivals such as the Ford Mustang Cobra 500, Mazda RX-8, Pontiac
GXP-R and Porsche 997 GT3.

As well as a fascinating array of cars that put on a stunning spectacle particularly during the night sessions on Saturday and Sunday  one of the main points of interest of the three-day test was the notable presence of many illustrious champions. Several famous drivers used Pirelli tyres over the 5.7-kilometre circuit, including the reigning NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, and former F1 drivers Juan-Pablo Montoya, Ricardo Zonta, Allan McNish and Eric Van de Poele. They were joined by the top stars from American racing such as Scott Pruett, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Buddy Rice and Jimmy Vasser.

Also present were many of Europe's leading lights in endurance racing. Stephane Ortelli, a former winner at Le Mans and the Spa 24 Hours, helped with the development of Cheever Racing's Coyote-Pontiac. "I'm very pleased with how these tests went," said Ortelli. "They allowed us to fully assess the capabilities of the car and the Italian tyres. The car is a lot easier to drive, much more linear in its response and it's no problem to drive two stints on the same set of Pirelli PZero tyres. This will be a big advantage in a 24 hour race where anything can happen right up the last minutes ".