The south of France is not normally known for torrential rain, but Italian tire firm Pirelli has successfully completed two days of wet running at the Le Castellet circuit this week in preparation for its eagerly-anticipated return to Formula One.

This was made possible thanks to the advanced sprinkler system at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track, which is able to accurately dampen the track to any specified level of wetness for the purposes of testing, whatever the ambient conditions.

Over the course of the two days of testing, Pedro de la Rosa completed 826 kilometers in the Toyota TF109: 294 kilometers on Monday and 532 kilometers on Tuesday. The test was aimed exclusively at refining Pirelli’s family of two rain tires: the extreme wet and the intermediate.

The extreme wet is used for full rain conditions while the intermediate is a transition tire that copes well with conditions between dry and wet. These tires were previously run in Valencia at the beginning of October, and plenty of progress was made throughout the two days at Le Castellet.

Pirelli was able to test both types of tire comprehensively within a wide window of conditions, gathering some extremely useful data about each tire’s behavior on a wet, damp and drying track. As a result, the design of the rain tires have now been finalized and significant progress has been on the definition of the compounds.

British driver Ben Hanley also tested the extreme wet tire for GP2. Unlike Formula One, the GP2 regulations do not permit an intermediate tire, meaning that the GP2 extreme wet has to be very versatile to cope with a wide range of rain conditions.

Wet weather testing will continue next year, but for now the European phase of development has come to end and Pirelli heads next to Abu Dhabi, where the Formula One teams will have their first taste of the new rubber in a two-day test from November 19-20 following this weekend’s Grand Prix.

Pirelli will take two types of slick tire to the Abu Dhabi test: the medium tire as the prime and the soft tire as the option. Each of the 12 Formula One cars present will have eight sets of tires available over the course of the two days, meaning that Pirelli will take nearly 500 covers to the Middle East.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome of this wet test session,” Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented. “The sprinkler facilities at Paul Ricard allowed us to carry out all the work that we intended in consistent conditions and maximize our time there to the best effect. With our European campaign over we now head to Abu Dhabi, which will be the first indicator of where we are really at. It’s still a big step into the unknown but we believe that we have a solid foundation of products now with which to make more progress – after less than three months of running to date.”

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