As we strive to understand how tires perform in the real world, we’re all about learning through doing, using our own in-house testing program to experience many of the tires we sell.
Learning through motorsports is also part of Pirelli’s development process. In addition to becoming the exclusive tire supplier for Formula 1 and GP2 (starting in 2011), Pirelli is involved with professional racing series around the world, like Grand Am, GP3, Ferrari Challenge, World Rally Championship (WRC), and more.
During our visit we had time to take in a 4-hour VLN Series race at the Nürburgring, and watch Pirelli race tires in action. All the teams get a chance to practice on the afternoon before the race. This gave us an opportunity to mingle with the cars, drivers and throng of spectators crowding the pit lane. We also had the unique opportunity to ride along with lead Pirelli test driver and Nürburgring specialist Rudi Adams as he piloted his #105 Dörr Motorsports BMW Z4 GT3 around the track. Rudi has competed in more races at the Nürburgring than he can remember, and likes to use racing as a way to keep his driving skills sharp.
Race day dawned grey and foggy, with intermittent rain showers soaking the track for the morning qualifying session. Mixing it up with Porsche 911 GT3s, Audi R8s, Mercedes-Benz SLSs and a variety of other potent cars, Adams used a set of Pirelli racing rain tires to qualify his BMW Z4 eighth out of nearly 200 cars. The afternoon race was also plagued by rain, with only one section of the track drying off briefly around the 3-hour mark. Despite an off-track encounter with the guardrail by one of his co-drivers, Rudi and his teammates were able to finish 18th overall, thanks to the performance of their Pirelli tires.
Our trip has given us much greater insight into the lengths Pirelli goes to when designing and building tires, for the race track or for your street car.