Pirelli has received “good feedback” from the inaugural AWS-powered Fanatec GT World Challenge race with its new P Zero DHF tyre, according to the Italian supplier’s race director.
Matteo Braga told Sportscar365 that Pirelli noticed a “clear improvement” in lap times over the previous generation DHE tire and found no issues with degradation during one pass when opening the car. GTWC Europe Endurance Cup season at Imola on April 3.
Nicki Thiim’s fastest race lap was just over two seconds quicker than the fastest lap in the last GTWC Europe race at the Italian circuit in 2020, on DHE.
Imola marked the introduction of the P Zero DHF on three different platforms, with 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”.
“The conditions at Imola were variable,” explained Braga.
“All the GT3 sessions ended up being dry and we were able to see a marked improvement in lap times both in qualifying and in the race.
“Degradation has never been a problem over long distances; restarts after safety cars were a little trickier for those driving too close to the lower limit of the operating window.
“In fgeneral [there was] very good feedback from the drivers and we saw that all the manufacturers could participate in the fight for the top positions.
Braga acknowledged that while the Imola results were encouraging, it would take further races for the GTWC Europe teams to become fully familiar with the new tyre.
He suggested that the amount of adaptation teams need to make will depend on their own approaches and the unique characteristics of different GT3 cars.
“As usual, we’ve seen teams in the past have been able to find the performance in a window that we recommend working,” Braga said.
“They are able to adapt quite quickly to the new product. Finding the ultimate performance will probably take a few runs, because everyone has to learn.
“We see the teams that were maybe working outside of our window because they found a way to optimize performance and then have to recalibrate everything and spend more time on it.”
One of the talking points at Imola was the challenge some teams faced warming the tire to its optimum temperature, especially after being cooled under a safety car.
This issue is believed to have been specific to the event, with low April temperatures in northern Italy producing difficult conditions for some cars.
Warmer temperatures during summer daytime races should alleviate the problem at these events.
“The potential is higher, but the warm-up procedure is more temperature-sensitive,” Lamborghini works driver Mirko Bortolotti said of the new tyre.
“Everything has moved down a bit. When it’s warmer everything should get better, but in cold weather we struggle a bit more.
Jules Gounon, Mercedes-AMG works driver, added: “The compound is much stiffer. We need to figure out how to activate them a little earlier.
“It’s something that we will have to test because on our other program, in ADAC GT Masters it’s cold tires [with no warming equipment]. It will be very difficult.
Responding to the question of reaching the maximum tire temperature at Imola, Braga said: “DHF has a better performance in the operating window which for some teams did not match their racing parameters.
“Within the same brands, we noticed that teams adapted faster than others to the conditions and were able to get the best performance from the tire every time.”
Despite some of the temperature-specific challenges, Imola riders and teams generally found DHF to be an improvement over DHE.
WRT team sporting director Kurt Mollekens described the DHF as “stronger” than its predecessor, especially on the front axle of the GT3-spec Audi R8.
“It has better mid-corner and exit grip,” he told Sportscar365.
“We have more grip at the front in these cornering phases. Obviously it doesn’t affect the braking that much, but the corners and the mid-exits are strong.
“It’s not bad for us, but it suits the Mercedes even more. It’s naturally understeer whereas ours are normally quite balanced. We had to adapt the car a bit to the extra grip at the before, I would say.
JP Motorsport McLaren driver Christian Klien was also pleased with the new product and noted how it can be considered an upgrade for both professionals and enthusiasts.
“I like them, they are better,” he summed up. “They give you a bit more grip, especially on a new tyre. You can squeeze a bit more out of the tyre.
“It seems, for an amateur driver, easier to drive. Basically they allow you a more combined grip than the other.
“If you load sideways [the DHE] they gave up pretty quickly, and for an amateur it was often quite tricky to find the limit of the car.
“So I think overall it’s an easier tire to handle for recreational riders. But it still has good performance, so you can take it out as a Pro rider.
Pirelli maps the global deployment of DHF
The Pirelli P Zero DHF makes its US debut in Sonoma this weekend, for the season openers GTWC America and Pirelli GT4 America and round two of GT America.
Extensive testing of the DHF took place last year, while deliveries to European teams were made in early February to facilitate pre-season data collection.
The tire has been available to American teams since the beginning of March, giving participants time to train 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 arrive in competition since SRO America finalized its starting balance of performance for the season.
In GTWC Asia, Pirelli is considering a delayed introduction after the May season opener of Sepang. The second round takes place at Suzuka in July and begins a series of four consecutive Japanese races.
“It’s a question mark for Sepang,” admitted Braga.
“With the situation we have in Asia, that things can change at the last minute, we have to think about how to distribute the stock in Asia: not to be too risky where maybe our stock is stuck somewhere.
“We are probably thinking of doing Sepang on the DHE and starting from Japan.
“It’s always about finding the balance to give everyone the same opportunities, and not risk losing stock.”