Scratch Practice Three for the Grand-Am Rolex Series ‘Roar Before The Roar’ at Daytona International Speedway. The track temperature was below freezing F and not a single car ventured on track. The ambient temperature and track temperature both hovered around 33-34 degrees F/0.5C until noon.
For the fourth session, thirty teams had cars on course, starting out with a trickle and building up as the afternoon progressed. SCOTT DIXON from New Zealand was fastest in No.02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley Daytona Prototype. His lap of 1:43.325 was far off the fastest Friday time of 1:40.466 mph set by MAX ANGELELLI/No.10 Sun Trust Ford Dallara DP.
JORG BERGMEISTER/No.67 TRG/Flying Lizards Porsche GT3 was the fastest of the 23 GT cars who braved the chill. His lap was 1:50.214 mph, not that far off Friday’s fastest time of 1:49.961 mph set by his teammate, PATRICK LONG.
RAFAEL NAVARRO III, Director of Pirelli Public Relations, Advertising and Motorsports filled me in on the weather/tire situation. “Pirelli Tire Engineers gauged the track at 43 degrees F/6.1 C for the fourth Rolex test session.” Earlier in the day Pirelli had issued a Tire Bulletin to the teams, basically outlining the care of tires in cold weather. It boiled down to – Tender Loving Care prevents Cold Cracks.
Navarro said “Cold cracks are an aesthetic problem, not related to performance. But not desirable, nonetheless.”
The short version is that “in this cold weather the tires like to be kept warm when they are sitting or stored. Pirelli keeps the tires in temperature-controlled warehouses, and warms the tires before mounting. The team tire handlers have to exercise care when handling or off loading the tires – no throwing around or bouncing them on the ground.
“Among the things teams could do for their tires is keep them warm, especially when ambient temperatures are below 40 degrees F – store them in heated transporters, cover them with blankets, keep them up to the proper air pressure, etc.”
This season is the second year for Pirelli Tires in the Rolex Series. “The tires, now in their third generation, are made in Turkey and therefore subject to guidelines set up by the European Trade Commission. This means the tires are aromatic-oil free – no petroleum products are used in the tires. This makes for a more environmentally friendly tire.
“This year’s tires maintain their peak performance throughout the wear of the tire, even during cautions or pit stops. The grip level is about the same, and they are less sensitive to irregularities related to low tire pressure.
“There have been no tire issues so far this weekend. Pirelli wasn’t caught off guard by the test weather – we were prepared for everything.”
You think the race car teams are brave being out and about during this record frigid weather. Just imagine those thousand Boy Scouts camped in the Speedway infield as part of a two-day event. That must be one special Merit Badge. Makes me cold just thinking about it.