While Pirelli may be new to the Audi R8 LMS Cup, having joined as official tyre partner at the start of the season, it is already recognised as one of the world’s most famous names in tires. Founded in 1872, (several years before the invention of the automobile) in Milan, Italy, the company initially specialised in rubber and its derivatives.
Less well known is that Pirelli shares its 110-year motorsport association with China.
Pirelli’s entry into the world of motorsport officially began on June 10, 1907. On that day, Italian Prince Scipione Borghese, accompanied by his chauffeur and a journalist, lined up for the start of the first Peking to Paris rally. This was the first international motorsport event ever held in China, and five teams showed up in Beijing ready to embark upon the epic, 16,000 kilometer marathon.
The Prince had chosen a 1.5 tonne, 40hp Itala with which to tackle the route, shod, naturally, with Pirelli tires. He trounced the competition, arriving in Paris a colossal 20 days ahead of his closest rival. Pirelli had earned its motorsport stripes with the victory, and today its involvement in the sport encompasses Formula 1, rallying, motocross and myriad circuit championships and blue riband stand-alone races across the globe.
This season, Audi R8 LMS Cup teams and drivers enjoy the benefit of more than a century of motorsport experience and expertise that Pirelli brings. In addition, Pirelli’s involvement with the Audi R8 stretches back 10 years to the launch of the original road car for which it is the official homologation tyre. In motorsport competition, with the Audi R8 LMS GT3 running in myriad championships around the world, Pirelli was completely familiar with the car long before it became a Cup partner.
With fair competition being at the heart of the Audi R8 LMS Cup philosophy, the challenge for Pirelli was to identify a compound which would deliver both performance and reliability across the grid. The P Zero Dry Hard (DH) fit the bill. Used extensively in GT competition throughout Europe and the US, the compound has been tried and tested thousands of times. More recently adopted by regional championships such as the Blancpain GT Series Asia, the China GT Championship and the GT Masters China, adding the Cup to the list of P Zero DH series means drivers can compete in all of Asia’s major GT championships without the need to adapt to a new tyre.
Like the Audi R8 LMS itself, the P Zero DH compound is constantly evolving, and Pirelli takes its R&D as seriously as the brand with the four rings. An R&D rotation system involves transfer not only of data, which is gathered from test tracks and race circuits around the world on a daily basis, but also personnel. Hundreds of personnel working on R&D for road and motorsport tyres regularly trade places, ensuring the best brains in the business are constantly challenged and inspired and the knowledge base expanded.
On top of the ongoing compound testing and development at HQ, Pirelli has an expert team onsite at every round of the Audi R8 LMS Cup. As soon as the cars take to the track for the first time, technicians begin monitoring tyre performance, temperature and pressures, as well as track temperatures.
Yet much of what draws people to the sport of motor racing is the quality of the on-track action. In the high-speed, passionate heat of the chase, there is unlikely to be a single driver who has not once let tyre preservation slip to the bottom of their priority list. Conversely, it is not uncommon to see a driver who has remembered to stay off the kerbs, particularly before his or her tyres have reached optimal internal running pressure, plough up through the field in the closing stages to snatch victory.
There would be little incentive for a driver to hone his or her racing skills if tyre management was not an important ingredient for success. Understanding racing tyres is a crucial component of the sport, and the very best drivers know precisely how and when to extract maximum performance.
But that is all part of what makes the sport so completely enthralling. The Audi R8 LMS Cup provides drivers and teams with a fair, professional motorsport showcase. In the Audi R8 LMS GT3, they have a high-performance, reliable thoroughbred racing car. Pirelli ensures it is shod with the optimum compound for the high levels of competition on a variety of circuits and in wildly differing weather conditions.
And you can see the spectacular results for yourself at every Audi R8 LMS Cup race weekend.