Pirelli clinches WRC3 on Rally Sweden
Pirelli has clinched the WRC3 category with young Frenchman Michel Fabre, on a Rally Sweden that overcame threats of cancellation due to unusually warm weather. In order to preserve the route, only 12 of the planned 21 stages were run, and drivers received an extra allocation of tyres as the gravel coming through the road made it inevitable that there would be damage to the tungsten-tipped studs. However, such is the strength of Pirelli’s patented process of locking the 384 studs per tyre in place during vulcanisation, that stud loss was not so much of an issue for the Pirelli runners as it was for some other competitors. Pirelli’s brand new Sottozero Ice 1 was making its debut in Sweden, with a number of improvements to the design aimed to help retain the studs and evacuate snow and ice more efficiently. Fabre, making his WRC3 debut this year, claimed his first victory in the category with Pirelli, having made excellent use of the snow tyres to find traction and grip in some of the most challenging conditions seen since 1990, when the Swedish round of the World Rally Championship was actually cancelled due to warm weather. Driving a Citroen DS3 R3T, Fabre collected vital experience of a unique surface and now moves into the provisional lead of the WRC3 series. In WRC2 – the feeder series to the main WRC1 category – local man Fredrik Ahlin led after the opening leg in a privately-entered Ford Fiesta R5 equipped with Sottozero tyres, springing a surprise by beating the factory-backed cars from Ford and Skoda. Pirelli driver Anders Grondal eventually finished just off the WRC2 podium in another Ford Fiesta R5: an excellent result for the Norwegian, whose main focus this year is his domestic championship rather than the WRC. The only WRC1 car equipped by Pirelli was the Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Lorenzo Bertelli, who withdrew from the event on day two. Only one type of tyre was run in Sweden for all classes of car: the Sottozero Ice 1, with a seven-millimetre stud. Pirelli’s rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni commented: “This was one of the most complicated and challenging rallies we have experienced in terms of the weather, and our compliments to the organisers who spared no efforts to reschedule the itinerary and fix as many of the stages as they could so that we could at least have a rally. Under these circumstances, it was hard for any of the drivers to extract the full potential from the Sottozero Ice 1. However, as the rally went on and more snow fell, there was more performance to be had. Fredrik Ahlin in particular demonstrated his capabilities in WRC2.” Also this weekend, a quite different competition is taking place using Sottozero tyres. Four Audi A4 Avants are competing in a new 24-hour regularity event, the ‘20quattro ore delle Alpi’, in which the crews will visit the major ski resorts of northern Italy and Switzerland via some of the challenging mountain roads in Europe. The tyres used are Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3: direct descendants of the Sottozero competition tyres, using the same technology, which are chosen by the world’s most prestigious car manufacturers as original equipment. Pirelli’s next World Rally Championship event will be Rally Mexico from March 3-6, when the series moves onto gravel for the first time this year.
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