From snow to gravel: Pirelli tyres aim to show peak performance in Mexico

Milan, March 2, 2010 – Following on from the wintery conditions of Sweden, which Pirelli's tungsten-tipped snow tyres successfully conquered two weeks ago, the Italian tyres now face a new and entirely different challenge on the other side of the world. Rally Mexico, round two of the World Rally Championship, features the most compact route of the entire World Rally Championship with nearly half the total rally distance run competitively, meaning that the drivers, cars and tyres will not get a minute's rest over the three demanding days of the event. With warm temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Centigrade, altitudes higher than 2500 metres, sharp rocks and flowing gravel, this is the ultimate test bed for Pirelli's hard compound Scorpion tyres. Along with most tyre companies, Pirelli tests its products extensively before they find their way onto the cars that people drive every day. But only Pirelli has access to the toughest proving ground on the planet: the FIA World Rally Championship. From snow to gravel, sand to asphalt, Pirelli's tyres are put through their paces by the most demanding drivers on earth, all of whom require every fraction of a second of performance to be made available to them as they fight ferociously to beat each other. Mexico is the first round of this year's championship to be held on gravel, and with gravel being the most common surface on the World Rally Championship, the performance of the tyre is crucial. In Mexico, as is the case on all gravel rallies, the tyres have to somehow find grip on a surface of loose stones that feel like skating on marbles. This situation is always worse for the cars running first on the road, as they have to sweep the marbles clear for the cars following behind - who then enjoy the benefit of running on cleaner roads. Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, who won the season-opening Rally Sweden on Pirelli Sottozero tyres and will start Rally Mexico first by virtue of his championship lead, commented: "Sweeping the road clean is a problem that I am well aware of, but I still wouldn't swap my win in Sweden for a better seeding in Mexico. I'll still try to find a way to challenge for the win. Mexico is going to be an interesting rally, as we'll really see where the competitive order is." The hard-compound Pirelli tyre features a tread pattern that is specifically designed to help cars find traction on even the most gravelly surfaces. The Scorpion tyres scoop up the loose gravel as they cover the surface and the tread pattern spits it out to the side and back of the wheel as quickly and efficiently as possible - enabling the drivers to find grip. Road car tyres, such as Pirelli's Scorpion 4x4 range, work in exactly the same way. Most of the stages on the Rally Mexico are repeated at least once, and although the condition of the road varies considerably from the first to the second passage, Pirelli's Scorpion tyres have always shown an impressive degree of consistency in varying conditions. Sebastien Loeb, who won Rally Mexico with Pirelli when the event last formed part of the World Rally Championship in 2008, said at the time: "The tyres were very constant from start to finish; we had no problems at all." Mexico is also the second round of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, for two-litre trubocharged Group N cars, and Super 2000 World Rally Championship - which uses normally aspirated two-litre cars. As part of its three-year deal as official supplier to the World Rally Championship, Pirelli also supplies the support championship: underlining the performance and efficiency of the Italian rubber on a wide range of machinery. Rally Mexico will get underway in the evening of Thursday 4 March with a start ceremony at Guanajuato: a picturesque former mining town that is now a UNESCO world heritage site. The rally is due to finish in the afternoon of Sunday 7 March, after 22 stages and 355 competitive kilometres.