Rain dampens latest round of Pirelli’s 2017 tire testing

Wehrlein at Barcelona. Photo: Pirelli

This week was meant to be a heavy two days of running for Pirelli’s new 2017 tires, but rain at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona prevented Mercedes AMG Petronas drivers Nico Rosberg and Pascal Wehrlein from doing much running at all.

Rosberg drove the modified 2015 Mercedes chassis, the W06, on Wednesday. The German and World Championship leader was in Barcelona only a day after celebrating the team’s third successive Constructor’s Championship but only got 60 laps of running in.

Per Pirelli, “cool temperatures in the morning (with track temperatures of 17° centigrade at the beginning of the test) and the rain in the afternoon hindered the work that was done today, making it difficult to obtain representative tire data.”

Of those 60 laps, Rosberg ran 46 in dry conditions in the morning and then 14 in the afternoon.

Rosberg on 2017 Pirelli tires in dry conditions. Photo: Pirelli
Rosberg on 2017 Pirelli tires in dry conditions. Photo: Pirelli
And then it got wet for Rosberg later on. Photo: Pirelli
And then it got wet for Rosberg later on. Photo: Pirelli

Things didn’t improve any for Wehrlein, who took the reins on Thursday, when Lewis Hamilton had meant to be driving but didn’t owing to a sore foot.

Wehrlein, the Manor driver, completed 31 laps on Pirelli’s Cinturato Intermediate compounds in the wider 2017 sizes. Temperatures were even cooler today as the running got underway with a damp surface, track temperatures of just 15 degrees centigrade, and fog. The rain returned in the afternoon, ending the session prematurely.

“Obviously the weather hindered progress to some extent both today and yesterday, as is not entirely unexpected at this time of year in Europe,” said Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery.

“The same can apply to the early part of next year, which is why we are in favor of some guaranteed warm weather testing in 2017, before the season gets underway.”

On the subject of warm weather testing, that should take place this weekend with Red Bull Racing testing the 2017 tires in Abu Dhabi from Friday through Sunday.

What Hembery was referencing in his last quote was a row over 2017 preseason testing, with tests set for Barcelona but Pirelli – and some other teams – petitioning to get at least one test moved to a warmer climate. Bahrain has been mentioned.

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”