First gravel challenge for hybrid Rally1 cars

Updated hard and soft compounds for Scorpion KX WRC

Nearly 100 cars on Pirelli tyres, including Junior WRC drivers

The Rally de Portugal, which celebrates its 50th edition this year, is the first gravel event of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship season and the first for this year’s new hybrid Rally1 cars, with Pirelli introducing its updated range of Scorpion KX WRC gravel tyres tailored to the demands of the top category.

Why tyres matter in Portugal
Portugal features fast and technical gravel roads with a surface that is initially soft and sandy, offering up little in the way of grip for the early runners, and which can quickly degrade to expose the hard base underneath with sharp rocks and stones. Tyres have to be versatile to deliver both performance and durability, and strategies will often vary between the first and second passes of stages. The weather conditions could reserve some surprises and make racing strategies more complicated. In this context, wet tires could play a key role as much as dry tires.

The Pirelli tyres in Portugal
Scorpion KX WRC: Pirelli’s gravel rally tyre for the top category comes in two compounds, both of which have been updated for the 2022 season with reinforced structures and a design optimised for the extra weight and torque of the latest Rally1 cars. For Portugal, the hard HA is the main choice offering durability for the most abrasive surfaces, with the soft SA as an alternative providing optimal grip in cooler or damp conditions.
Scorpion K: Gravel tyres for the less powerful Rally2 cars in WRC2 and Rally3 cars in WRC3 and Junior WRC also come in hard (K4A) and soft (K6A) compounds – featuring many of the same characteristics of the KX fitted to the top cars.

Pirelli quote
Terenzio Testoni, rally activity manager: “As the first gravel rally of the season, Portugal will be a big test for the teams and their new cars, and the first chance to see how they compare on the most common surface in the WRC. It’s also the first opportunity to deploy the new HA and SA compounds of our Scorpion KX WRC tyres. These combine what we learned during our first season back in the WRC last year, with the special characteristics demanded by the latest Rally1 cars. The hard and rocky base of the stages in Portugal means the hard compound is the main choice here, but we can also expect the soft to be popular for the first pass of stages and especially if it rains. A wide range of weather and surface conditions are possible, so this should provide a good all-round test for the tyres.”

Pirelli in numbers
Pirelli will bring around 2400 tyres to Portugal, of which 520 will be for the top class of Rally1 cars.

Each Rally1 driver can use up to 28 tyres during the rally, including shakedown. A new rule for gravel events in 2022 means each driver can choose an extra four tyres of either compound ahead of shakedown, in addition to the standard allocation of:

  • 24 Scorpion KX WRC HA
  • 8 Scorpion KX WRC SA

Pirelli will also supply tyres to the other four-wheel drive WRC2 cars on the event (drivers who do the shakedown can choose either four extra K4A or four extra K6A to add to their allocation):

  • 22 Scorpion K4A
  • 8 Scorpion K6A
  •  A maximum of 26 tyres are allowed to be used (including shakedown)

Pirelli will additionally supply 210 tyres to Junior WRC competitors for round three of their season:

  • 18 Scorpion K4
  • 12 Scorpion K6
  •  A maximum of 22 tyres are allowed to be used (including shakedown)

The big number: 100. Portugal has a strong entry list of 100 cars, all competing on Pirelli tyres. This includes 12 Rally1 machines – the most seen on one event so far – as well as 41 entries in WRC2. On top of the regular four-wheel drive categories, Pirelli will also equip Toyota Gazoo Racing cups. The one-make Iberian Peugeot 2WD will also be fitted with Pirelli tyres.

What to look out for
The two most successful drivers in WRC history, Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier, return for their second appearances of the season after their epic battle for victory in January’s Rallye Monte-Carlo. While M-Sport Ford driver Loeb is still fourth in the championship standings, Toyota’s Ogier is eighth, giving him a more favourable road position for the opening day. Starting last among the Rally1 cars though will be Dani Sordo, who makes his first start of the season in the Hyundai entry he shares with Oliver Solberg this year.