Pirelli completes three-year tenure as official WRC tyre supplier
Pirelli will complete its three-year tenure as the official tyre supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship under an exclusive agreement with the FIA, motorsport‟s world governing body, on Wales Rally GB this week (November 11-14). During that time Pirelli has attracted significant praise from WRC drivers and teams for producing reliable tyres that have been required to perform on different surfaces in varying weather conditions and withstand punishing terrain without the use of run-flat mousse technology, which was outlawed to save costs in 2008. Pirelli has also provided an exemplary level of customer service from its headquarters in Milan and on the ground at all WRC events through its dedicated team of expert engineers and technicians. Since 2008, Pirelli has supplied a total of 26,960 versions of its PZero, Scorpion and Sottozero tyres, celebrated three drivers‟ and manufacturers‟ champions and covered almost 14,000 kilometres of special stages over 39 world championship rallies on snow, ice, asphalt and gravel. Under the terms of its agreement with the FIA, Pirelli was challenged to focus on durability rather than outright performance when developing its WRC tyre range, albeit without using mousse inserts. It is therefore great testament to the advance design and meticulous production processes employed by Pirelli that of those 26,960 tyres supplied, only 42 have suffered failures on the punishing terrain encountered on world championship rallies, a percentage of 0.016. “Overall, the number of genuine punctures has been very small without compromising performance,” said Pirelli‟s senior WRC tyre engineer Matteo Braga. “Together with the high level of customer service and equality we have strived to achieve, that has probably been our biggest achievement, and it‟s one that everyone has recognised.” Sébastien Loeb, who has won his last three world drivers‟ titles using Pirelli tyres, added: “At the start of the agreement it was expected there would be some troubles because of the regulations meant you could only have two types of tyre and no mousse. But there were no punctures and lots of grip so no problems.” Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson said: “Pirelli have done a terrific job. Their product has worked very well with no problems on any of the rallies. They‟ve also put in a major amount of investment into the Star Driver programme.” Pirelli will continue its commitment to rallying in 2011 by supporting the new WRC Academy, which replaces the Junior World Rally Championship as the first port of call for drivers aspiring to one day become world champion. Pirelli will also provide the opportunity for six young drivers, Fredrik Ahlin (Sweden), Craig Breen (Ireland), Jan Cerny (Czech Republic), Andrea Crugnola (Italy), Brendan Reeves (Australia) and Molly Taylor (Australia), to contest the series as part of the Pirelli Star Driver programme, which it has supported for the last two seasons, amid a tough economic climate, and reinforces Pirelli‟s long-standing aim to unearth rallying‟s future talents. The current intake of Star Drivers will be in action in Wales led by New Zealander Hayden Paddon and Estonian Ott Tänak who have impressed throughout the season. Paddon will be gunning for second place in the Production Car World Rally Championship standings, while Tänak will be bidding for his second PWRC victory of the year. Fellow Pirelli Star Drivers Nick Georgiou, Peter Horsey and Alex Raschi will continue to build their experience of competing at world level. As well as a counting for overall WRC points, the gravel-based Rally GB is the last scoring opportunity of the season for competitors in the Production Car World Rally Championship, for two-litre turbocharged Group N cars, and the inaugural Super 2000 World Rally Championship for normally aspirated two-litre cars. Pirelli will supply its soft compound Scorpion tyres to both support championships, thereby underlining the performance and efficiency of the Italian rubber on a wide range of machinery. Rally GB typically throws up wintry weather with rain, mud and even ice set to add to the challenge facing the crews. Pirelli will provide the soft compound version of its Scorpion gravel tyre to competitors in four-wheel drive machinery, which is designed to offer enhanced grip and stability in wet and cold conditions. “We have to be prepared for all kinds of weather on this event, especially as it is quite late in the year, so it is classic territory for our soft compound Scorpion tyres,” said Matteo Braga, Pirelli‟s senior WRC tyre engineer. “Rally GB is always a very tricky event, as the grip is inconsistent due to a number of different surface changes and the weather. If it is muddy, it will be extremely slippery and it‟s possible that we‟re even going to see some ice on the stages, as was the case a couple of years ago.” Rally GB, which is based in the Welsh capital Cardiff, gets underway with an all-asphalt stage in Cardiff Bay on the evening of Thursday November 11 with the first car due to cross the finishing ramp in Cardiff at 15:25hrs on Sunday November 14 following a total of 20 stages over a competitive distance of 359.44 kilometres.