Kubica returns to World Rally Championship with Pirelli
International motorsport star Robert Kubica returns to the World Rally Championship with Pirelli this weekend when he contests Rally de Portugal in the latest-specification Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The 30-year-old Pole, who elected to miss last month’s Rally Argentina, will return to the M-Sport fold to drive the all-new Fiesta. But he will continue to rely on the Pirelli tyres that have powered him to stage wins on every event he has contested so far this year. Also driving the latest homologation of Ford Fiesta RS WRC will be Martin Prokop and Lorenzo Bertelli – meaning that three out of five of the new Ford cars entered will be on Italian rubber. Rally de Portugal, round five of the WRC, is all new this year, returning to a base close to Porto for the first time since 2001. On that occasion, the Pirelli-equipped Ford Focus WRC of Carlos Sainz was locked in a thrilling battle for the lead against Mitsubishi’s Tommi Makinen, with the rally only decided on the final stage. The most successful driver in the history of the event is Markku Alen, who achieved every single one of his five victories in the country on Pirelli tyres, between 1975 and 1987. The move back to the north of Portugal means the return of some classic stages such as Fafe, with its famous jump that attracts hundreds of thousands of fans. The weather in northern Portugal can be variable at this time of year, with the roads becoming extremely slippery when wet. The Pirelli Scorpion KH Reinforced hard compound has been chosen as the main tyre for Portugal, with the Pirelli Scorpion KS Reinforced soft as the option (for cooler or more muddy stages). These tyres are both based on last year’s K product to make them even more stable and durable for Rally de Portugal’s 16 stages, making up 352 competitive kilometres in total. Under the latest WRC regulations, opportunities for tyre changes are limited, meaning that the compounds have to be durable as well as quick. Rally de Portugal gets underway with a ceremonial start in Guimaraes and a superspecial at the Lousada rallysprint circuit on Thursday 21 May before concluding on Sunday lunchtime at the Exponor exhibition complex close to Porto.
Leading Pirelli drivers in Portugal: Robert Kubica, Martin Prokop and Lorenzo Bertelli will represent Pirelli in the leading WRC1 class, with Karl Kruuda leading Pirelli’s WRC2 entries. The new Skoda Fabia R5 makes its debut on Pirelli tyres with Armin Kremer driving while highly-rated South African Henk Lategan makes a return to the WRC, having last competed on Rallye Monte-Carlo. 14 Robert Kubica/Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 21 Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 33 Max Rendina/Mario Pizzuti (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10) 36 Karl Kruuda/Martin Jarveoja (Citroen DS3 R5) 37 Lorenzo Bertelli/Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) 44 Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer (Skoda Fabia R5) 47 Valeriy Gorban/Volodymyr Korsia (MINI JCW RRC) 49 Jonathan Hirschi/Vincent Landais (Peugeot 208 T16) 50 Anders Grondal/Roger Eilertsen (Citroen DS3 R5) 73 Julien Maurin/Nicolas Klinger (Ford Fiesta RRC) 75 Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari/Marshall Clarke (Ford Fiesta RRC) 76 Keith Cronin/Stuart Loudon (Citroen DS3 R5) 89 Marco Tempestini/Dorin Pulpea (Subaru Impreza WRX) 92 Hendrik Lategan/Barry White (Skoda Fabia S2000) The tyres available and the rules: The WRC drivers are allowed 24 tyres for the whole rally under the latest regulations (four tyres per tyre change opportunity, plus four spares). They can choose from 24 of the first choice 205/65-15 KH Reinforced and 16 of the option 205/65-15 KS Reinforced. The K pattern is well known for its versatility, being suited to wet and damp gravel as well as dry surfaces. The internal part of the asymmetric tread pattern helps acceleration and braking, while the external part puts the emphasis on lateral grip. Quotes: Matteo Braga, Pirelli senior tyre engineer: “There are many exciting things about Rally de Portugal this year. We have a new route in the north, which contains some very beautiful but challenging stages and two new cars fitted with our tyres: the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, in which Robert Kubica returns, as well as the Skoda Fabia R5, driven by former European champion Armin Kremer. We know that the stages around Porto can be characterised by abrasive and rocky roads, but also by more compacted and sandy surfaces. So we decided to nominate the KH tyre, which guarantees stability and performance in the hottest and most severe conditions, plus the KS as an option for less demanding surfaces or rain. If we get wet weather in Portugal, this will test the ability of our tyres to evacuate water and loose stones, while the big jumps on the Fafe stage also place heavy demands on the tyre structure. There is a lot going on in terms of how the tyres work on these stages, so we’re looking forward to another strong performance from our renowned K products.”
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