Block lights up the crowds in Catalunya as Pirelli crowns two champions
Gymkhana superstar Ken Block was one of the highlights of the World Rally Championship's Rally of Spain, held in Catalunya, using both Pirelli’s asphalt and gravel tyres. The American sensation was set for a top-10 points-scoring finish on his first event in a World Rally Car for 18 months, but lost time after hitting some debris on the racing line in the final stage, which deflated his tyre. Undeterred, Pirelli’s brand ambassador performed a series of ‘doughnuts’ that delighted the enthusiastic Spanish crowds, underlining his status as an automotive legend and firm favourite of all the fans. “I had a fantastic time, even though it really wasn’t easy for me after so long out of the car doing rallycross,” said Block. “This rally was held mostly on asphalt, and actually I haven’t done an asphalt rally of any description for three years! But the 50-kilometre asphalt stage that we did twice on Saturday was one of the most enjoyable I have ever driven. Compared to the other guys I was a bit of a high-speed tourist, but the Pirelli tyres worked very well; they definitely helped me to gain a lot of confidence under tricky circumstances.”
|Pirelli-equipped Ken Block demonstrating
just why his official job title is "Head Hoonigan in Charge"
Block’s show-stopping performance added to a successful weekend for Pirelli, in which Italian driver Max Rendina clinched the WRC2 Production championship for drivers, after his only rival Juan Carlos Alonso retired. Czech driver Martin Prokop, making his debut with Pirelli, also secured a points-scoring finish in eighth overall on the Rally of Spain. Prokop was able to demonstrate his speed on the Italian rubber by fighting with the factory teams in his privateer Ford on the Power Stage. With an opening day on gravel and the rest of the event held on asphalt, the Scorpion K4 Reinforced tyres were used on Friday, before the teams used the P Zero RK5A over the weekend. Ambient temperatures were warm, peaking at 30 degrees centigrade. Both tyres showed durability and pace, with Friday’s gravel stages being some of the most abrasive seen all year, exacerbated by sections of asphalt that further increased tyre wear. Sharp rocks on the racing line were also a common occurrence. Despite all these challenging factors, the compound remained stable and the Pirelli Scorpion was resistant to the punctures that affected rival drivers. When the action switched to asphalt, the P Zero RK tyres were strong enough to complete an entire 80-kilometre loop of stages on just one set – which not everyone could achieve – and stay competitive. For example, French driver Julien Maurin, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5, set third-fastest time overall in the final split of the long 50-kilometre stage, in front of many more powerful World Rally Cars. In order to achieve this he managed his tyres perfectly, driving consistently during the bulk of the stage and saving the tyres for an impressive final push at the end. The Frenchman eventually finished runner-up in the WRC2 category. Maurin also became French Rally Champion with Pirelli over the weekend, as his only title rival retired from the Criterium des Cevennes back home in France with a Porsche 997, while the Fiesta driver was competing in Spain. Pirelli senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga commented: “We’re delighted for our championship winners, Max Rendina and Julien Maurin – both of whom have driven excellently all year. It was a pity that Ken had the problem on the final stage, but this should not take anything away from a massively impressive performance, in which he managed to display his abundant talent and thrill the crowds. It was a real pleasure working with him again, and the value that he brings the sport is immense. It’s also been a pleasure to begin our collaboration with Martin Prokop: this has been one of his strongest results of the year in an entirely private car, which has provided us with an interesting benchmark.” The final round of the World Rally Championship, to which Pirelli has returned this year, is the Wales Rally GB from 13-16 November.
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