Kubica leads on gravel for the first time with new Pirelli tyre
Polish star Robert Kubica was able to use the extra speed of Pirelli’s new Scorpion KHA gravel tyre to lead a gravel rally for the first time in his illustrious career, when he headed the field during the opening full day of the Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada. Unlike any other event on the World Rally Championship, Catalunya took place on both gravel and asphalt, with the opening day devoted to gravel, before the cars switched to asphalt specification (and tyres) at an extended Friday night service halt. As a result, this is one of the most complicated rallies from a logistical standpoint, with four types of tyre being taken for the top runners to choose from: including the recently launched Scorpion K tyre for gravel in both hard and soft specification. The new Scorpion K tyre features a tough construction to cope with the rocks and bumps that are typical of gravel roads such as those found in northern Spain, as well as a tread pattern that is specifically optimised to disperse loose stones and gravel. This provides more grip by maximising contact with the surface of the road, giving the drivers more confidence.
Kubica used the tyre to claim a stage win on SS3 that reinforced his lead of the event, which he held until two stages later, despite his inexperience on this surface. The Pole said: “From the start I had a good feeling with the tyre, but I still have a lot to learn and actually I also made a small mistake. But I was quite happy.” Even after his problem on Friday, Kubica recovered to set some competitive stage times on both surfaces and finish in the points. Pirelli driver Martin Prokop continued his run of points finishes, closing in on the top 10 of the championship by finishing seventh in Spain after another strong run. Weather conditions remained hot and dry throughout all three days of the rally, with just the hard compound version of the Scorpion K gravel tyre and P Zero RK asphalt tyre (seen at the previous round in Corsica) used. The same tyres, but with a smaller individual allocation per driver, were also used in the closely fought WRC2 category. Former European Rally Champion Armin Kremer in his in his Pirelli-equipped Skoda Fabia R5 was beaten to the podium by just 0.1 seconds by Nasser Al-Attiyah, after a thrilling contest. Al-Attiyah finished third but also won the title, having used Pirelli tyres earlier this year during his championship campaign to win in Portugal. ACI Junior Team driver Fabio Andolfi finished third in WRC3, driving a Peugeot 208 R2 supported by Pirelli. This has reinforced the Italian youngster’s strong championship position after an impressive debut season, in line with Pirelli’s philosophy of supporting young talent. Pirelli product manager Terenzio Testoni said: “Robert put in an outstanding performance to make the most of our new Scorpion K tyres, which gave him the confidence to push to the maximum and charge to the front of the field. There, he enjoyed the consistency to continue to hold the lead. So we’re very happy with the performance of our new Scorpion K, which has helped two of our cars into the top 10 against the factory teams, and allowed Robert to lead a rally on gravel for the first time, continuing his stage-winning record. A special mention for Fabio Andolfi: although he has very little experience he finished on the WRC3 podium against some extremely strong opposition, showing his speed both on gravel and asphalt with the help of his Pirelli tyres.”
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