Pirelli’s racing technical manager Matteo Braga is the subject of this week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass to share insight into how the tire manufacturer is dealing with unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Braga is a senior member of the Pirelli Motorsport team and oversees the company’s activities in a number of championships, including SRO Motorsports Group’s GT racing platforms.
As well as detailing Pirelli’s response to the global health crisis, Braga provides insight into the new P Zero DHE tire for GT3 competition, and new products for the GT2 and GT4 categories.
What sort of response have you had for the new DHE tire so far?
“We didn’t have the chance to run too many events before we were forced to stop racing activities, but we got some good feedback from all the teams around the world.
“We had a few Curbstone events, some private tests in Asia and the UK, and the first round of the GT World Challenge America powered by AWS at COTA, as well as the official test at Paul Ricard.
“The first impressions were good; our initial feeling is that amateur drivers in particular felt the improvement in the new DHE range of tires.
“Unfortunately, we’re now losing the start of the season and part of pre-season testing, so teams and drivers will have to learn the new product at the first race when we restart. But we don’t think that should take them so long.”
How is Pirelli handling the current COVID-19 situation?
“It’s fair to say that the pandemic has affected all of our racing activities and not only those.
“Pirelli has local motorsport departments in many countries all around the world, and since the pandemic started in Europe, we’ve managed the different situations following the instructions and restrictions issued by local governments.
“For now, everyone in Italy has been asked to work from home, as is the case for many other countries too, so we are trying to carry on our usual business in a way that is as close to normal as possible, with videoconferencing and so on.
“Thanks to this we can still work effectively, while keeping an eye on the evolution of the pandemic and controlling our internal business processes in order to adapt to possible future scenarios.”
Will the delay to racing impact or delay the global debut of the new tire?
“No, the new tire is ready to be supplied all over the world.
“In fact, even before the global shutdown, we thought that the best way to be ready for anything was to make our local motorsport departments more self-efficient.
“This means that if any specific country is able to carry on with racing, or restarts their activities earlier, we can react quickly.”
How does the rescheduling of races affect Pirelli’s logistics and transport?
“That’s not an easy question to answer as we won’t know the details about that until all the different championship plans are finalized.
“It seems that every day you hear about changes and new plans, but in the end it’s not in our hands so we will need to wait for instructions from governments.
“I think it’s bound to be one of the biggest ever challenges for our supply chains and logistics though, inevitably.
“All the standard elements of planning for production, shipments and people will have to be completely reshuffled and redistributed over a period of the year that doesn’t follow the usual pattern.”
What developments have you carried out to the GT4 and GT2 tires for 2020?
“With the new ranges of products for GT4 and GT2, we want to follow the requests and the needs of the market. Cars are continuously evolving, and customers are always more demanding.
“Thanks firstly to F1, then to GT3, we’ve had the chance to develop new technologies and new techniques when it comes to producing and designing our products.
“We basically transferred all the experience gained in GT3 to the GT2 category, by including new sizes in a wider range of GT3 products, and we’ve moved the GT4 product from a traditional building process to a new and more advanced one, in common with GT3 and F1.
“This is the first step of a bigger plan, but to help our customers gets used to these changes we decided to introduce them step by step.”