A strong performance from the Pirelli drivers on Rallye Deutschland showcased the capabilities of the latest generation of RK and RKW tyres that were introduced to the World Rally Championship in Germany.
Using the new RK5A hard compound and RKW7 soft, Pirelli drivers Bernardo Sousa and Julien Maurin both led the WRC2 section of Rallye Deutschland. Sousa retired from the lead after going off the road during the afternoon of day two, while Maurin was just two stages away from victory when he lost time with a puncture sustained in one of the many unavoidable corner cuts.
Both drivers proved they were capable of winning stages and leading the rally in different categories of car: Sousa with the Ford Fiesta RRC, and Maurin with the Fiesta R5. Former European Rally Champion Armin Kremer was also in a Pirelli-equipped Skoda Fabia S2000, finishing on the podium in the WRC2 category after a fighting performance from start to finish.
Ford Fiesta World Rally Car drivers Jaroslav Melicharek and Sam Moffett (making his WRC debut) also had their first taste of Pirelli’s latest products in the top class of rallying. Despite their lack of experience, both finished just outside of the top 10 without recourse to super rally.
The Pirelli RK tyre was introduced this year in response to the latest world championship regulations, which state that just one single pattern has to be used for all asphalt conditions. Only two compounds are allowed: hard and soft. While outwardly identical to the RK5A, the softer RKW7 has a compound that is specifically formulated to cope well with damp and wet surfaces, as was often the case in Germany.
Rallye Deutschland is one of the most challenging asphalt events on the entire World Rally Championship, encompassing a wide variety of roads from tight and twisty vineyard stages, with plenty of hairpin bends, to the broken concrete tracks of the Baumholder military stages, where it is very easy to pick up a puncture.
Pirelli was also quite literally at the front of the field in Germany, equipping the new rear-wheel drive Toyota GT86 CS-R3 driven by former Ladies’ World Champion Isolde Holderied as zero car. The new Toyota, which is currently completing its development in conjunction with Pirelli, ran Pirelli’s RX tyres on the event. These are Pirelli’s well-known tyres for dry asphalt, formerly used on the WRC.
Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga said: “We had one of our biggest entries on this event, equipping 15 cars plus the Toyota, and as a result of the performance here we have had many more enquiries about next year. This confirms all the development work carried out over the course of the year, allowing our drivers to lead their classes in a wide variety of dry and wet conditions. Consequently, we have demonstrated a good balance between performance, consistency and durability on one of the most demanding events in Europe. During the first pass over the challenging Panzerplatte stage on Saturday, Maurin and Kremer chose the hard tyre, as opposed to the majority of their rivals who selected the soft, and it was this decision that allowed them to gain an advantage.”
Pirelli driver Lorenzo Bertelli came into Rallye Deutschland leading the WRC2 standings. However, the Italian did not nominate Germany as one of his seven points-scoring rounds. As a result, he has lost the lead but remains very much in contention for the WRC2 title.
The World Rally Championship resumes on the all-gravel Rally Australia, based in Coffs Harbour from September 12-14.