FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

May 26, 2009

PIRELLI SCORPION TIRES POWER LATVALA TO ITALIAN VICTORY

OLBIA, Italy - Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala put the brakes on Sebastien Loeb’s domination of the 2009 World Rally Championship season – claiming his first win of the year after competing in the all-gravel Rally d’Italia-Sardegna: Pirelli’s home event.

Latvala led the rally from start to finish, despite the handicap of being first on the road throughout Saturday and Sunday with the unenviable task of sweeping the course clean for the rest of the drivers. His Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen finished second – ahead of third-place driver Solberg and fourth-place driver Sebastien Loeb.  Loeb maintains a comfortable lead in the drivers’ World Rally Championship (WRC), and his Citroen team is leading the manufacturer’s championship in WRC as well.

Conditions on the Rally d’Italia, based in the Sardinian city of Olbia, were dry and warm during all three days of the event with temperatures frequently exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The roads provided a formidable challenge, with a surface layer of loose and dusty gravel covering a hard base with sharp rocks. The hard-compound Pirelli Scorpion tires used in this event – similar to those that may be chosen for the next round in Greece – proved durable and up to the challenge of Sardinia, contributing to a thrilling battle for supremacy between the two Ford team mates.

 

Latvala, who became the youngest man to win a round of the World Rally Championship in Sweden last year, said: “It’s been an amazing three days with some really difficult conditions and big rocks; but we’ve had no problems with the tires whatsoever. Being first on the road was a tricky task, but we were able to overcome that and bring home a great result for the team.”

 

Pirelli’s home event was also the second rally of the Pirelli Star Driver program: a unique initiative to give five drivers from FIA regional championships all over the world the opportunity to compete in six rounds of the World Rally Championship with identical Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X Group N cars. On an event that gave all six young drivers some extremely valuable experience of rough gravel, up-and-coming Finn Jarkko Nikara emerged best-placed of the Pirelli Star Drivers.

 

In addition, Sardinia – just like the previous WRC event in Argentina –also hosted a round of the Junior World Rally Championship and Production Car

 

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World Rally Championship, both of which are supplied by Pirelli as part of the Italian manufacturers’ three-year contract with the FIA.

 

Swedish driver Patrik Sandell claimed his third win of the year in the Production Car category, at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia S2000, while Citroen C2 Super 1600 driver Martin Prokop collected the laurels in the Junior series.

 

Pirelli’s Rally Manager Mario Isola concluded: “We faced conditions in Sardinia that were even tougher than usual, with several crews being forced out with suspension and damper problems as a result of the constant punishment from the stages. Nonetheless, neither of the leading teams encountered the slightest problem with punctures during the rally, enabling them to start the final day separated by less than 10 seconds.  Even Loeb’s much publicized “puncture” was not a puncture at all, but the outcome of his Citroen hitting a tree and damaging the tire valve. These very rough conditions also taught our five Star Drivers how to blend consistency with their obvious speed, which will serve them well in the future.”

 

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Pirelli Tyre SpA – Press Office – Motorsport Communication

Viale Sarca, 222 – 20126 Milano – Italy – phone/fax +39 02 644245407 – www.pirelli.com

 

 

Pirelli Tyre SpA – Press Office – Motorsport Communication

Viale Sarca, 222 – 20126 Milano – Italy – phone/fax +39 02 644245407 – www.pirelli.com