Pirelli Paddock Pass: Matteo Braga – Sportscar365
As Pirelli Race Director, Matteo Braga is at the heart of the Italian supplier’s crucial role in turning the wheels of GT racing cars competing in all corners of the world.
In this latest Paddock Pass Q&A, Braga explains Pirelli’s approach to the AWS season-powered Fanatec GT World Challenge 2021, how the company has evolved through the COVID-19 pandemic, and what future options tire development could be on the table.
Pirelli presented the new P Zero DHE slick tire for GT3 competition last year. What was Pirelli’s approach for the 2021 season?
“Honestly compared to 2020 it’s not a big change because the 2020 season has been so short and focused.
“We made a big change from 2019 to 2020 so all the teams lost the first part of the season to learn more about the new GT3 product and the new regulations.
“We thought introducing something new for 2021 was too much, because maybe some of them would get lost with so many changes in a short period of time. So we decided to keep the stability.
“Considering the fact that we are racing a regular season, so with regular weather conditions, it will be different from last year. Because last year we were only running all the races in the fall and winter so it was pretty cold and wet.
“This is a new challenge for the teams as they will be using the new products in different weather conditions compared to last year.”
Is Pirelli planning any updates to the DHE tire used worldwide in the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS?
“There are a few small updates, mainly on the rain tire we are working on.
“If we’re ready and if we can catch up with the time during the season, maybe we will implement it.
“Obviously we are still developing both slicks and wets throughout the year. When we see that there is a need for change in the series, we are ready.
“We are always trying to introduce something new: we don’t want to keep changing products every six months, otherwise the economic balance of the series will collapse.
“But when you see that it’s time, you always try to do something new because you have to follow the evolution of the cars and the teams.
“We can see this year that the grid is very solid, probably even more than last year. The needs of teams and riders can always be different from year to year, so we always try. For 2021, the only change we can make is probably the rain. “
What kind of rain tire update would you like to implement?
“In a specific case, it is simply because the evolution of the slicks was faster than that of the wet ones.
“Today we have a smooth product where the wet gap is a little bigger than four or five years ago.
“What we want to do is just close that gap without changing the behavior of the tire too much. It’s just to make it easier for teams to go from a dry setup to a wet setup. “
How has Pirelli’s racing activities been influenced by the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic?
“I would say the big effort was made last year. Honestly, last year was just a big question mark for everyone, as soon as they started locking down different countries.
“No one knew where we were going and we decided to follow a strategy which was to empower our local Pirellis. We have invested in local centers for product distribution, as well as local engineers, local motorsport services.
“Last year we were pretty self-sufficient in the United States, South America, Canada, Europe and Asia. [GTWC] Asia didn’t start back then, but at the end of the day we were doing business in Japan.
“In Australia, they are starting with a new series of GT World Challenge. We have our local team with motorsport facilities that run it locally.
“I think something we’ve probably gained with the COVID situation is that we’ve grown our local teams. Today we are able to have well trained people ready to support GT World Challenge level series all over the world.
“This is something good that we are taking away from the COVID situation.
“In terms of logistics, last year was not easy because we had to create a fairly large stock before the closures. When you have a big inventory, you have a high cost in the end.
“But it was good because as soon as we restarted we were able to restart without a problem in any part of the world. Today, I don’t mean to say that we have returned to normality, but by following this approach, we are able to manage everywhere.
Pirelli also supplies the SRO Motorsports Group GT2 formula. what the role of the company in the launch of the new Fanatec GT2 European Series?
“We did the development in 2019 because we had to be ready in 2020.
“We were simply basing our development on our expectations and the expectations of SRO, without certain customers being in competition.
“From now on, the challenge will be to understand if our objectives correspond to the expectations of the customers, and if to adapt for the following season.
“The races last 50 minutes, there are driver changes. They run on specific sites and maybe next year will be different. It’s an evolution and we want to evolve with the customers, to try to make the series succeed.
In the longer term, what future developments of GT racing tires are envisaged?
“I’m not the person to talk about sustainability, but there are a few things that we try to implement in our products, so follow the guidelines.
“I don’t know if we’ll be ready for 2022, but I think a lot of players are pushing in that direction. Some materials may be changed.
“From a complete design standpoint, it depends on what the market demands.
“If they ask for a new product, we would be ready in 2022 with a new product. If the market demands stability because of budgets, we can maintain stability.
“We always try to follow the requirements of SRO, to keep the series attractive and not put a barrier for customers to come in because the costs are too high.”