This weekend’s Rally of Turkey is round four of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship and the first round of the Pirelli Star Driver program: a joint initiative between the Italian tire company and the FIA, the governing body of world motorsport.

The rally has moved 435 miles north from its previous location on the Mediterranean coastal resort of Kemer in the south of the country to Istanbul – Turkey’s largest city and the fifth most populated city in the world.

Pirelli_Star_Driver_Team_In_Action_FIAEven as Istanbul is the bridge between Europe and Asia, the all-gravel stages of the rally are in Asia. They are made up of fast and flowing gravel, with a wide variety of speeds and corners. In character, the roads are not quite as tight and technical as the stages in the south, with higher average speeds than seen previously.

The one thing that is likely to remain entirely Turkish, despite the shift to a new location, will be the weather – which will be hot.

Istanbul has been chosen as the 2010 European Capital of Culture and the start of the rally will take place in the historic Sultanahmet Square, next to the famous Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia. The rally cars will be transported to the start by ferry on the Bosphorus River, together with media and VIP guests.

There are 23 gravel special stages, consisting of 222.97 competitive miles. On Friday evening, there will be a 1.24 mile superspecial in Istanbul, which is bound to be a highlight of the event.

Pirelli begins its third season as the official tire supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2010 intent on maintaining its long-held reputation for performance and durability.

Pirelli has amassed 170 wins at the WRC level, securing 13 world manufacturers’ titles and 10 world drivers’ championship crowns, including helping Sébastien Loeb to the last two of his six honors.

In 2007, the FIA, the governing body of world motorsport, awarded Pirelli a three-year contract to supply tires exclusively to cars contesting WRC events from 2008-2010.

As well as specifying a single tire supplier, the FIA imposed a limit of two compounds for tires used on gravel and asphalt. Furthermore, the use of anti-deflation devices was also outlawed, which placed a huge onus on durability – and took the competition product closer than ever to the road car market.

As part of its ongoing commitment to the WRC, Pirelli is continuing the Star Driver scheme, designed in association with the FIA to unearth future driving talent from around the world by providing five lucky candidates with a fully funded drive on six rounds of the WRC.

“(Pirelli’s Star Driver Program) is an absolutely vital part of our strategy and also integral to our core values of giving young drivers a helping hand in the sport,” said Paul Hembry, Pirelli’s Director of Motorsport. “Unlike circuit racing, rallying does not have a real structure in place to help young drivers climb to the pinnacle of the sport, and the Pirelli Star Driver scheme goes some way towards filling that gap. For many years, even the most talented drivers from the FIA regional championships had nowhere to turn if they wanted to make the step up into the World Rally Championship, and recent economic conditions have made finding sponsorship harder than ever. With the Pirelli Star Driver program, we’re giving young drivers a helping hand just when they need it most.”

The leading young driver from the FIA’s regional championships in Africa, Middle East and the Asia Pacific zone, plus two from Europe via a qualifying process and shoot-out, will get the use of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, prepared by Ralliart Italia, on the WRC events in Turkey, Portugal, Finland, Germany, France and Great Britain.

The Pirelli Star Driver program is ongoing proof of Pirelli’s historic commitment to discovering and developing young driver talent in motorsport.

Working in collaboration with the FIA – five young drivers have been selected to compete on six rounds of the World Rally Championship – starting in Turkey.

These five names were chosen after a painstaking selection process that, in some cases, took into account championship results or, in others, combined driving tests, psychological and fitness assessment, as well as interviews and media training.

They now have the opportunity of a lifetime before them – and six chances to get it right.

Each of the drivers in the program took part in pre-season training, which the five drivers and co-drivers completed in March before Rally of Turkey. The 10 men undertook an intensive training and education course in Edinburgh, UK, before leaving for Pisa, Italy, to test the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X they will drive on six rounds of the WRC.

The training session worked on the timetable of a round of the WRC, with the first evening simulating the ceremonial start or superspecial stage of an event. Two long days followed, before a further early start and finish just after lunch on the third day. In that time, the crews were working on a wide variety of aspects of preparation for the WRC, including: sponsorship and the business of rallying; pacenotes; performance profiling; physiology and conditioning; fitness and injury prevention; career management; aerobic training and flexibility; media and presentation skills; nutrition; safety and incident response; heat chamber work; hydration strategy; goal-setting and anti-doping regulations in motorsport.

As well as a theoretical approach, drivers were also set tasks to take a practical look at all of the above. For example, to underline the importance of nutrition, the crews were given a set sum of money and told to go to the local supermarket to buy their lunch, which was evaluated for nutritional value.

The 2010 Pirelli Star Drivers

Name: Nick Georgiou
Age: 27
From: Lebanon (born Oman)
Co-driver: Joseph Matar
Won the FIA Middle East Rally Championship Pirelli Star Driver qualification
Name: Peter Horsey
Age: 26
From: Kenya
Co-driver: Moses Matovu
Won the FIA African Rally Championship Pirelli Star Driver qualification

Name: Hayden Paddon
Age: 22
From: New Zealand
Co-driver: John Kennard
Won the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship Pirelli Star Driver qualification

Name: Alex Raschi
Age: 22
From: San Marino
Co-driver: Rudy Pollet
Won one of the two FIA European Rally Championship qualification places

Name: Ott Tänak
Age: 22
From: Estonia
Co-driver: Kuldar Sikk
Won one of the two FIA European Rally Championship qualification places

2010 Pirelli Star Driver Events

1. Rally of Turkey, April 15th-18th
2. Vodafone Rally de Portugal, May 27th-30th
3. Neste Oil Rally Finland, July 29th-31st
4. ADAC Rallye Deutschland, August 19th-22nd
5. Rallye de France, September 30th – October 3rd
6. Wales Rally GB, November 11th -14th

Pirelli’s Presence in Turkey

Pirelli’s WRC tires are manufactured in Turkey

Turkey takes on added significance for Pirelli this week. Not only is it the venue of round four of the FIA World Rally Championship, it is also where the company produces its rally tires from its Türk Pirelli Lastikleri A.S. factory in Izmit near Istanbul.

The Türk Pirelli Lastikleri A.S. Izmit facility is the Pirelli Group’s largest factory and utilizes advanced technology and highly-skilled employees to manufacturer tires for road and competition use. This makes Izmit’s factory one of the centers of excellence of Pirelli’s research and production for Motorsport applications.

The motorsport section of the Izmit factory, which began producing rally tires in 2006, has a production capacity of 240,000 tires per year. The factory’s total area is 426,500 square feet and 32,800 square feet is dedicated to its motorsport activities, which employs 100 personnel to provide rally drivers around the world with high performance and durable tires for gravel, asphalt and snow conditions at the best possible price.

Pirelli’s Rally Tires

Gravel tires

The Pirelli Scorpion gravel tire is design to be strong and adaptable, in order to cope with the huge variety of gravel surfaces tackled by the World Rally Championship. It leads a hard life, as it is required to deliver consistent performance on hard and compact ground as well as in mud or on soft and sandy terrain.

The latest WRC regulations do not allow crews to cut the tires in any way so the tread pattern must be correct from the start in order to satisfy usage conditions that are as diverse as they are extreme – from the hot rocks of Mexico to the flat-out rollercoaster roads of Finland. Anti-deflation mousse has been banned since 2008 (the first year of Pirelli’s three-year contract) meaning that the tires have to be extremely strong, with a rigid construction.

The depth of the block grooves has been increased to guarantee longer tire durability and the pattern is specifically designed to help turn-in and maximize lateral grip even on unstable surfaces. Another important function of the carefully designed Scorpion tire pattern is to disperse mud, stones and water in the most efficient way possible, in order for the tire to provide a good and consistent level of grip.

The Scorpion tires are available in two compounds: hard and soft. The hard compound is used for the hottest and roughest surfaces, the soft tire for milder conditions.

Asphalt tires

Just like the gravel tire, the Pirelli P Zero asphalt rally tire is derived directly from Pirelli’s ultra-high-performance road tires – and the lessons learned from motorsport are fed directly back into road tire design, constantly improving the product for the everyday motorist.

Pirelli’s P Zero rally tire also has to cope with an almost infinite variety of surface and weather conditions, particularly now that it is forbidden to cut or modify the tires in any way. This puts the emphasis on the standard tread pattern to disperse any water in the most quick and efficient way, in order to avoid aquaplaning.

A characteristic of asphalt rallies is corner-cutting, when drivers go deep into a corner in order to take the quickest possible line. This leaves the sidewalls of the tires vulnerable to sharp stones, so the P Zero tires are especially reinforced to prevent damage to this vulnerable area. The asphalt rallies tend to be amongst the quickest in the championship, so the PZero tires have to cope with sustained high speeds, often on old or abrasive surfaces.

In most forms of motorsport, competition tires are specially developed for competitive use, but the P Zero tires are so closely-related related to Pirelli’s standard products that they are even homologated for road use. They are also available in hard or soft compound.

Snow tires

Since 2008, specialised narrow-dimension tires have been banned – so the Pirelli Sottozero tire is now the same size as the asphalt tire. It can be fitted with studs that protrude out by about a millimetre, enabling the tire to cover long road sections without damaging the road surface.

The structure of the Sottozero is more flexible than the asphalt P Zero, precisely because this tire must perform on very variable road conditions. In addition, Pirelli has reinforced the tire’s shoulders, in order to offer even more resistance to punctures.

The compound and the tread have been developed to perform at their best with or without studs, as they have to remain effective in a huge range of winter conditions. Just one compound is available.

All Pirelli tires have exceeded the latest environmental standards since 2008, with no aromatic oils used in their construction.

Pirelli Tire North America designs, develops, manufactures and markets tires for passenger vehicles in both the original equipment and replacement markets as well as markets and distributes tires for motorcycles and motorsports. Located in Rome, Georgia, Pirelli’s Modular Integrated Robotized System (MIRS) employs state-of-the-art technology to manufacture tires for both export and domestic markets. For more information please visit www.us.pirelli.com.