Pirelli received “good feedback” from its first AWS-powered Fanatec GT World Challenge with its new P Zero DHF tire, according to the Italian supplier’s racing director.
Matteo Braga told Sportscar365 that Pirelli noticed a “clear improvement” in lap times compared to the previous generation DHE tires and found no problems with deterioration during his stint during the GTWC Europe Endurance Cup season opener at Imola on April 3.
The fastest race lap set by Nicky Thiem was over two seconds faster than the fastest lap of the last GTWC Europe race at the Italian circuit in 2020, which is set on DHEs.
Imola has had the distinction of introducing the P Zero DHF across three different platforms, with the GT4 and GT2 cars also using the newly developed compound for the first time as Pirelli aligns its GT racing products under the same ‘family’.
“Conditions at Imola have been changing,” Braga explained.
“All GT3 laps eventually ran in dry conditions and we were able to appreciate the clear improvement in lap times in both qualifying and racing.
“Deterioration has never been a far-reaching problem; restarting after the safety cars has been a bit more challenging for those who run near the lower limit of the operating window.
“Generally [there was] Very good feedback from drivers and we saw that all manufacturers were able to take part in the struggle for top positions.”
Braga acknowledged that while Imola’s results were encouraging, it should take more races for the GTWC Europe teams to fully get to know the new tyre.
He noted that how much adaptation teams will have to do will depend on their own approaches and the unique characteristics of the different GT3 cars.
“As usual, we have seen that teams in the past have been able to find performance in a window we recommend to work in,” Braga said.
“They are able to adapt to the new product very quickly. To find the final performance, it will probably take a few races, because everyone has to learn.
“We see teams that used to work maybe outside our window, because they find a way to improve performance, and then they have to re-calibrate everything and spend more time on it.”
One of the talking points at the Imola was the challenge some of the teams had in heating the tire to the optimum temperature, especially after it had cooled down under a safety car.
Understandably, this issue was event-specific, as low temperatures in April in northern Italy led to difficult conditions for some cars.
Warmer temperatures during the summer daytime races are expected to ease the problem at those events.
“The potential is higher, but the heating action is more sensitive to temperature,” said Mirco Bortolotti, factory driver for Lamborghini, of the new tire.
“Everything has turned down a little bit. When it gets hotter everything should improve, but in colder conditions we struggle a little more.”
Mercedes-AMG factory driver Julie Junon added: “The complex is more solid. We need to understand how to operate it a little earlier.
“It is something we will have to test because in our other programme, in ADAC GT Masters, the tires are cold [with no warming equipment]. This will be very difficult.”
Responding to the issue of peak tire temperatures at Imola, Braga said: “The DHF performs better when in an operating window that does not match the operating parameters of some teams.
“Within the same brands, we’ve noticed that teams adapt faster than others to conditions and are able to get the best performance out of the tire every time.”
Despite some temperature-specific challenges, the drivers and teams at Imola overall found the DHF to be an improvement in DHE.
WRT Team Sport Director Kurt Mullikens described the DHF as “stronger” than its predecessor, particularly on the GT3-spec Audi R8 front axle.
“I got better grip in the middle of the corner and in the middle to the exit,” he told Sportscar365.
“We have more front grip in those phases of the corner. It obviously doesn’t play a big role in braking, but the cornering and centering for the exit are strong.
“It’s not bad for us, but it suits Mercedes more. It’s a bit simple naturally while our area is usually quite balanced. We had to adapt the car a little bit with the added front grip, I think.”
JP Motorsport McLaren driver Christian Klein was also satisfied with the new product and noted how it could be seen as an upgrade for both professionals and amateurs.
He summed up “I like them, they are better.” “It gives you more stability, especially on a new tyre. You get more tyres.
“It seems, to the amateur driver, easier to drive. It basically allows you to have one grip more than the other.
“If you are sideloading [the DHE] They quickly gave up, and for an amateur it was very difficult to find the maximum limit for the car.
“So I think in general it is easier to handle the tires for amateur drivers. But it still has a good performance, so you can put pressure on it as a professional driver.”
Pirelli Mapping the Global Subtraction of DHF
The Pirelli P Zero DHF will make its US debut at Sonoma this weekend, for the season-opening slots of GTWC America, Pirelli GT4 America and the second round of GT America.
Extensive testing of the DHF took place last year, while European teams were handed over in early February to facilitate pre-season data collection.
The frame has been available to US teams since early March, giving participants some time to practice before the Sonoma meeting.
Braga confirmed that the opening round of the GT America Series in St. Petersburg used the old DHE compound, while the DHF is now ready to enter the competition since SRO America finished the final touches on the performance balance for the season.
In GTWC Asia, Pirelli is considering a late submission after the Sepang season opener in May. The second round takes place at Suzuka in July and begins a period that spans four consecutive Japanese races.
“It’s a question mark for Sepang,” Braga admitted.
“With the situation we’re in in Asia, where things can change at the last minute, we have to think about how stocks are distributed in Asia: not to be too risky as maybe our stock is blocked somewhere.
“Maybe we are thinking of doing Sepang on DHE and starting from Japan.
“It’s always about finding the balance to give everyone the same opportunities, and not risk losing some shares.”