NEW ZEALAND RALLY, TYRE STRATEGY WILL MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Soft-compound Scorpion KX WRC is the prime, but the hard option could also play a key role
The race looks set to be one of the toughest of the year, particularly on the first day with long and tiring stages for tyres and cars
Testoni: “Tyres will be under great structural stress in counter-slope corners”
The New Zealand Rally returns to the World Championship calendar after 10 years and falls at a crucial time in a season that with three rounds to go is still potentially wide open. Mixed, medium-abrasive and sometimes slippery surfaces that make the search for the optimum grip arduous, and corners that require careful set-ups, are the traditional characteristics of the New Zealand rally, made even more challenging by the race format. There is no lack, in fact, of special features in the 2022 edition, such as the anticipation on Friday (already seen in 2012) of the double passage on the legendary Whaanga Coast track and the concentration on the first day of more than half of the total competitive kilometres of the rally: 158.56 kilometres in six special stages out of the total 279.8 in 17 stages.
WHY TYRES MATTER IN NEW ZELAND
The search for grip and maintaining the integrity of the tyres as well as the cars is the real challenge for the drivers on New Zealand's often dirt-covered gravel roads. The fortunes of the race are likely to be decided as early as Friday, which not only features very long but also very demanding stages, in particular the two passages of the Whaanga Coast (SS2 and SS5 of 29.27 kilometres) characterised by counter-slope bends that put the tyre structure to the test. No less demanding are the double passes of Te Akau South (SS3 and SS6), which at 31.48 kilometres is among the longest of the season. Tyre choice and strategy could prove to be crucial: each crew will have to find the right balance between performance, robustness and wear resistance.
For this race:
Soft-compound Scorpion for slippery surfaces and to ensure maximum grip, is the prime. At the moment the forecast calls for a high probability (more than 50%) of rain during the week of the rally, with temperatures in Auckland between 13 and 18 degrees.
Hard compound Scorpion for the longer distances and rougher terrain, is the option, which could prove to be the best choice for Friday's long and challenging specials.
Terenzio Testoni, rally activity manager: “The last gravel race of the season promises to also be one of the most demanding. I think we will see a very varied tyre strategy, in which both prime and option will be crucial. Apart from the structural stresses, which are already very severe, I also expect wear, especially on the first day of the race. Generally, the drivers who start at the front might have some grip disadvantages in the first few passes. The unknowns of the weather could also introduce further variations that should not be underestimated”.
THE PIRELLI TYRES IN NEW ZELAND
Pirelli brings 440 tyres for the Rally1 cars to New Zealand. Each car can fit a total of up to 28 tyres throughout the race including four for the eventual shakedown.
The allocations for the top category are:
- 24 tyres for the Scorpion KX WRC SA
- 8 for the Scorpion KX WRC HA
- 4 extra tyres of a compound of the crew's choice, in case of shakedown participation, which could bring the allocation of hard tyres to 12.
Pirelli also supplies 740 tyres to the WRC2 cars, which can use up to a maximum of 26 tyres per car, including the shakedown. The allocations for each crew are:
- 22 tyres for the soft compound prime, Scorpion K6B
- 8 for the hard compound option, Scorpion K4B
- 4 extra tyres of a compound of the crew's choice, in case of participation in the shakedown.