A puzzle of 5000 round pieces

Richard James

A puzzle of 5000 round pieces

SRO America

A puzzle of 5000 round pieces

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With nearly 40 cars needing tires for eight hours of racing, plus practice and qualifying, supplying all the tires for the Intercontinental GT Challenge Indy 8 Hour isn’t a simple task. It requires not only getting 5000 tires to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, mounting and balancing them – a job that carried well into the race on Sunday – but also keeping track of which tires went to which team.

“Organization and setup is key,” says Orazio Mastracchio, the North American Customer Racing Manager for Pirelli Tire, the sole supplier of tires to SRO Motorsports Group championships worldwide. “Making sure that all the tires are set up, all the tires are pre-scanned for every team. Teams need to come check their tires to make sure they match with the document we’re going to give to SRO. So it’s all the organization and setup. Pre-arriving at the racetrack, logistically, it’s complex. It’s like a puzzle. You have to make sure you have all the pieces, then you have to put them together.”

Pirelli gives each tire its own unique barcode, and knows where each tire is going so they know its history. That’s only a small piece of the puzzle to make it happen: Nine truckloads of tires; nearly every person from Pirelli’s motorsport dealer on hand to handle the workload; and making sure that not only are there enough slicks to supply every team for the weekend (plus Pirelli GT4 America, Touring Car and GT America teams that had two races each at Indy), but also enough rains for the entire weekend, just in case.

“You need a balance and understanding from the past usage of tires to understand what you need to bring,” explains Mastracchio. “Also, this year is very particular with the current global situation and logistics. It’s very, very complicated to get tires on time; a lot of the tires that we brought here were air flown, so that adds a complexity and an extra cost to the logistics situation.”

Fortunately, there’s enough experience in Pirelli’s worldwide network to handle that. Although the American 8 Hour Intercontinental GT Challenge race is only five years old, starting with three years at Laguna Seca before moving to Indy for the 2020 race, Pirelli has been supplying tires for the 24 Hours of Spa for much longer.

“As soon as we signed with [SRO Motorsports Group principal Stephane Ratel] for what was at the time the Blancpain GT series, it was the first time we were the sole supplier for the Spa 24, and the first time it was done by a single supplier,” says Pirelli Motorsport Racing Technical Manager Matteo Braga.

“We took that experience to put in place the operations in Europe. Then year by year, we were always inviting the team from the U.S. Orazio came several times, and all the guys here, I’d say at least half of them have been. We always try to push and promote this type of teamwork, Every year at Spa, we have people from China, Brazil Japan, Argentina – all our motorsport brands around the world – to come over, and it’s a sort of training and exchange of experiences.”

And Sunday afternoon – when the tire guys are usually done with their jobs, having mounted the tires each team will need for their races – the hard work is in full swing. Most teams don’t have enough wheel sets to go the whole race. Some might have sufficient sets to go half distance, others may only have what they need to get through a normal 90-minute GT World Challenge America race. So as soon as tires come off a car, it’s back to the Pirelli compound to get a new set ready for later in the race. That means a constant assembly line of people to check in, dismount, mount, balance and check out a set of tires. It’s not a simple process, but Pirelli has it humming along.

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