Pirelli on top at the bottom of the world
The ancient kingdom of Jordan is in many ways the spiritual home of world motorsport, with competitive events using wheels and horsepower having taken place in the area since thousands of years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Jerash, which hosted the start of the Jordan Rally on Thursday morning (April 1), is famed for its ancient Roman hippodrome, where crowds used to flock to witness the spectacle of chariot racing. Just like the modern FIA World Rally Championship, these chariots had control tyres: normally bronze or iron rims stretched around wooden wheels. As is the case in the present day, with Pirelli supplying the World Rally Championship in a three-year deal from 2008 to 2010, these identical tyres guaranteed close competition and near-perfect reliability in one of the most competitive sporting arenas there is. Sebastien Loeb claimed his 56th career victory and his 20th on Pirelli tyres on the Jordan Rally, round three of the World Rally Championship, to extend his lead of the drivers' standings to 25 points over Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala. Having conquered the highest stages on the planet less than one month ago in Mexico, at altitudes of up to 2800 metres, Pirelli tyres proved their performance and durability at the bottom of the world, with the Jordanian stages located nearly 400 metres below sea level. Most of the roads are carved out of the boulder-strewn desert, meaning that there are several sharp rocks and stones by the side of the stages. These can easily be pulled onto the ideal line by cars cutting corners, forming a hazard for the tyres. But such is the strength of the hard-compound Pirelli Scorpion rubber that none of the leading competitors suffered any sort of tyre-related problem, despite the extreme conditions and temperatures close to 40 degrees Centigrade. This strength and reliability is passed on to Pirelli's high-performance range of road car tyres, which benefit from the lessons learned at the cutting edge of motorsport. "The tyres were very good and they coped really well with these very tricky conditions," said Loeb. "With the hard base covered by loose gravel the grip levels were changing all the time: in the morning it was very slippery but once the roads cleaned there was good grip." Despite the varying surfaces, the Scorpion tyres offered a consistent level of feedback to the driver, which is also a hallmark of Pirelli's road car tyres. The Italian company has always been used to the toughest competitions though, having equipped the winner of the 1907 Paris-Peking epic road race more than 100 years ago across the wastelands of Russia. Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: "The stages in Jordan presented us with some of the toughest and most changeable conditions that we will see all year. With the Jordan Rally not having run as part of the World Championship since 2008, and the roads damaged by storms immediately prior to the event, we didn't exactly know what to expect before coming here. In spite of that, the hard compound Scorpion tyres performed really well on a wide variety of surfaces." The Jordan Rally was also a round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship and the Production Car World Rally Championship, which are both supplied by Pirelli. Spaniard Xavier Pons won the SWRC in a Ford Fiesta S2000, while Swedish driver Patrik Flodin claimed PWRC victory at the wheel of a Group N Subaru Impreza. These two types of car are very different but from chariot racing in the Roman Empire to World Rally Cars, Italian tyre technology has been at the forefront of global competition for more than three thousand years...