Spa revisited

How many?
Spa is a true giant of a track: by some margin the longest F1® circuit currently in existence (although that’s still nothing compared to the longest track in Formula 1® history, which was the Pescara circuit used – just once – in Italy in 1957, which clocked in at just over 25 kilometres with two six-kilometre straights, making for an 18-lap grand prix with a fastest lap time of nearly 10 minutes).
These are impressive numbers for sure, but the numbers from Pirelli’s last visit to Spa-Francorchamps last month are just as impressive, in a very different context. That was for the 24 Hours of Spa: the Italian firm’s biggest-ever event in terms of tyres fitted, logistics catered for, and man hours worked. This year’s Belgian Grand Prix will probably last something in the region of 1hr20min, provided there are no lengthy safety cars or major stoppages (which is far from guaranteed). The Spa 24 Hours went on for 18 times as long, with three times the number of cars. It was a glorious adventure, straight out of the 1950s in terms of sheer size...

A record number of tyres
All this of course means that a huge number of tyres were fitted and delivered: the most that Pirelli has ever supplied during the course of a single event. In total, between slicks and wets, there were 10,724 tyres made available to the 11 manufacturers represented at the Spa 24 Hours. There were 65 cars on the starting grid, and the winning BMW covered 531 laps (as opposed to the 44 laps that the winner of Sunday’s grand prix will be expected to complete). All the finishers combined completed 29,629 laps in total, or 207,521 kilometres: more than halfway from earth to the moon. This shattered the previous distance record set at the Spa 24 Hours, which was 21,086 laps in 2013. With Pirelli being sole supplier to the Blancpain GT Series, of which the Spa 24 Hours is the centrepiece, all these phenomenal distances were completed successfully on the Italian rubber exclusively.

A fitting area on steroids
In Formula 1®, the Pirelli fitting area – where the tyres are put onto rims – is normally located in or next to the paddock: consisting of two tents at European races, or sometimes a more permanent structure at the flyaway rounds. At the Spa 24 Hours, it’s not really a fitting area anymore but instead a fitting village, meaning that the whole operation had to be located at Blanchimont in order to accommodate the entire infrastructure (transported by a fleet of 24 trucks). 
An experienced Formula 1® fitter can fit a wheel and tyre from start to finish in around two and a half minutes. But with such a huge volume of tyres required at the Spa 24 Hours, a tyre was fitted every 21 seconds on average during the first 20 hours of the race, from two dedicated ‘production lines’ – with an astonishing maximum output of one tyre every 14 seconds during the peak hour.
There are around 18 tyre fitters at every grand prix: more than double that number at the Spa 24 Hours, working in shifts around the clock.

The tip of the iceberg
What makes this total even more staggering is the fact that all the above numbers relate only to the actual Spa 24 Hours itself, rather than the extensive menu of support races as well, such as the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, which is also exclusively supplied by Pirelli. 
In the same way, Pirelli will additionally be equipping the GP2 and GP3 Series this weekend, which resumes alongside F1® after the summer break. As usual at Spa, the challenge for the tyres is considerable. But it’s nothing that Pirelli hasn't seen before – on an even larger scale.

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