Pirelli made its return to the World Rally Championship after a year’s absence at the Monte Carlo Rally this weekend, fighting at the forefront of a competitive WRC2 field.
The Italian firm was sole supplier to the World Rally Championship between 2008-2010 and then supplied the WRC Academy until 2012. For the company’s return, Pirelli has proposed a range of rally tyres for customers that have been created entirely from scratch, enabling privateers to fight at the front of their classes.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a remarkable third-fastest time overall with a Super 2000 car on only the third stage, thanks to Swiss driver Olivier Burri.
The normally- aspirated Super 2000 cars have a considerable performance deficit to the headlining turbocharged WRC class, yet Burri’s Pirelli tyre choice enabled him to set a time that outclassed all the regular WRC stars such as reigning World Champion Sebastien Ogier.
Pirelli’s return this year is aimed at private entries, complying with the latest tyre regulations that impose strict limits on the quantities and tread pattern design of the tyres available.
Pirelli took eight class victories out of the 14 stages that were run competitively, setting a number of top-10 times overall without even having a car in the WRC class.
Monte Carlo is one of the toughest tests for drivers and tyres all season, with the outcome revolving heavily around the tyre choices on each stage. Conditions can range from dry asphalt to slush to heavy snow: with all three much in evidence this year for Pirelli’s return.
The Italian firm equipped five runners in the WRC2 category: former European Rally Champion Armin Kremer, Italian Production Car Champion Max Rendina, Greek driver Jourdan Semeridis, France’s Julien Maurin and Italy’s Lorenzo Bertelli.
In the Production class, there were two Pirelli runners: multiple Swiss champion Olivier Burri and Matthieu Margaillan from France.
Bertelli finished runner-up in the WRC2 class, while Rendina won the Production category.
The tyres available were the Sottozero and RK, in the softest compound available (RK9). The Sottozero comes in two versions: studded, for snow and ice, and without studs – like a normal winter road car tyre. The RK was used for dry and damp asphalt, with the Sottozero used for snow and ice: typical of the conditions seen on the famous Turini stages that conclude the rally.
Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said: “Our intention in returning to the World Rally Championship this year was to provide our customers with competitive tyres that will enable them to fight for top positions. Even on our first event, the new tyres showed plenty of potential, as our class positions and stage times show. Olivier Burri’s choice of Sottozero tyres on SS3 enabled him to seal a remarkable third-place overall on the stage, while Lorenzo Bertelli also led the WRC2 class before taking a podium on his Monte Carlo Rally debut. The conditions, as always, were extremely difficult this year meaning that not just pure speed but also the adaptability of the drivers and the tyres to the changing conditions held the keys to success.”
Pirelli’s next World Rally Championship outing will be Rally Sweden from 5-8 February, when the new Sottozero Ice will be seen for the first time.
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