Pirelli has been widely praised after completing its three-year tenure as the official tyre supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship on Wales Rally GB today. Pirelli was awarded the exclusive agreement in 2008 and since then it has supplied a total of 27,995 tyres for use on 40 WRC events on snow, ice, asphalt and gravel, covering more than 14,000 kilometres of special stages.
Under the terms of its contract with the FIA, Pirelli was challenged to focus on durability rather than outright performance when developing its PZero, Scorpion and Sottozero range of WRC tyres, albeit without using mousse inserts. It is therefore great testament to the advanced design and meticulous production processes employed by Pirelli that of those 27,995 tyres supplied, only 43 have suffered failures on the punishing terrain encountered on world championship rallies, a percentage of just 0.1536.
Although Pirelli won’t compete for outright victory on WRC events next season, when it begins its three-year agreement as the official tyre supplier to the FIA Formula One World Championship, the company remains fully committed to rallying and will contest several national and international series in 2011 as well as supplying tyres to the new WRC Academy, a training category for young drivers starting out in the sport’s highest echelon.
“We didn’t have any problems, no punctures, everybody was on the same level, and the tyres were competitive,” said Olivier Quesnel, the boss of the Citroën Total World Rally Team, which has won the manufacturers’ title for the last three seasons with Pirelli. “The support has been really good and we regret Pirelli are not in the WRC next year.”
Christian Loriaux, the technical director of the rival Ford team, said: “It has been a fantastic three years and I’ve congratulated them so many times. They have always been very professional with a good and consistent product and provided a very good level of service. They have also been very fair in everything they do and there are a lot of very nice guys in the Pirelli team who have become friends.”
The completion of Pirelli’s three-year involvement in the WRC coincided with an eighth victory of the season for the seven-time world champion Sébastien Loeb, who defeated Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala in a tense finish to register Pirelli’s 180th victory at world championship level. Driving a factory-prepared Citroën C4 WRC, Loeb completed the 344.96-kilometre route in damp and slippery conditions, with a winning margin of 19.1s on the final event for the current generation of World Rally Cars.
“When I heard that Latvala had a problem with his tyre on Friday I knew it would be because of a problem with the rim, because with the Pirelli tyre you don’t have punctures,” said Loeb. “It has been a very good three years with no problems at all.”
Matteo Braga, Pirelli’s senior WRC tyre engineer, was highly satisfied after the finish of Rally GB in the Welsh capital Cardiff earlier today. “We are all very pleased with how this event has gone,” said Braga. “The conditions have been difficult with rain, mud and cold temperatures all adding to the challenge facing the soft compound Pirelli Scorpion tyre but, once again, they have coped very well. We experienced one tyre failure on the event when the sidewall on a tyre on Ken Block’s Ford Focus was damaged by a rock. There have also been a few occasions when wheel rims have been broken by drivers hitting rocks and other obstacles on the stages, which have resulted in the tyre losing the air, as was the case with Latvala on Friday. But, in most cases, we have been able to inflate the tyre again back in service.”
Pirelli’s Rally Manager, Mario Isola, reflected on Pirelli’s three seasons in the WRC, adding: “I’m very proud of the success we have achieved and would like to thank all the drivers, teams and the Pirelli staff, not just the people on Rally GB but the people in the rally department in Milan and the factory in Turkey. They have been a very important part of a successful experience. Our targets were to produce a tyre that had solid puncture resistance and gave good consistency and we managed this even though we only had six months to get ready.”
As well as counting as the final round of the 13-event World Rally Championship, Rally GB was the last event of the year for competitors in the Super 2000 and Production Car World Rally Championships, which use Pirelli tyres as standard and therefore underline the performance and efficiency of the Italian rubber on a wide range of machinery.
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen, driving a Skoda Fabia S2000, was the first S2000 runner home while the inaugural title went to Spaniard Xevi Pons in a Ford Fiesta S2000. Armindo Aráujo successfully defended his PWRC crown at the wheel of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X as Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tänak claimed maximum PWRC points on his first appearance on the demanding gravel event.
Tänak was one of five Pirelli Star Drivers completing their six-event programme of WRC events this season, which is part of a joint initiative between Pirelli and the FIA to help nurture the next generation of rallying talent. Fellow Star Driver Hayden Paddon took third in the PWRC standings with team-mates Nick Georgiou, Peter Horsey and Alex Raschi all reaching the finish.
“It’s been another very successful season for the FIA Pirelli Star Drivers and having Ott and Hayden on the podium here is great news and a great endorsement of the programme,” added Isola.