Monte Carlo is one of the trickiest rallies of the year from the point of view of a tyre manufacturer, as the surface conditions and grip levels are constantly changing. With drivers only able to carry six wheels at one time (four on the car and two spares) they have to decide, several hours in advance, which allocation of soft, supersoft, and snow tyres they should take – with or without studs – to cope with a wide range of conditions.
Former FIA European and Asia Pacific champion Armin Kremer drove a Pirelli-equipped Skoda Fabia R5 to finish third in the WRC2 category: a 47-year-old privateer behind two factory-backed cars, having held off the works Skoda of Esapekka Lappi until the penultimate stage.
“I’m happy with my rally,” said Kremer. “Tyre choice is key here and with the help of Pirelli we generally found the best compromise on this tricky event.”
In the two-wheel drive WRC3 class, Fabio Andolfi finished third in his Peugeot 208 R2. Andolfi is backed by Pirelli and ACI, the Italian motorsport federation, who are supporting his season in a bid to get a young Italian onto the world stage.
However, Pirelli’s WRC1 contenders suffered mixed fortunes on an event that is often compared to the roulette wheel in Monaco’s famous casino.
Former grand prix star Robert Kubica – who has starred in Monte Carlo on Pirelli tyres previously – slid off the road on Friday morning’s SS4 at a place that caught out many other competitors.
“The road was dry before we got to the ice,” said the Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver. “We did two corners on the ice and it was okay. Then we arrived at the right-hander and I was just a passenger. The anti-lag was pushing me and I slid off the road into a tree.”
Lorenzo Bertelli was also caught out by the notoriously treacherous conditions, retiring his Ford Fiesta RS WRC following an off on SS6 on another patch of ice.
The Pirelli drivers used the RKS soft and RKSS supersoft compounds, as well as Sottozero snow tyres (with and without studs) for snowy conditions. The weather was generally dry throughout the event, although there were some isolated snowy and icy patches.
Pirelli’s rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni commented: “Congratulations to all our drivers who finished on the WRC2 and WRC3 podium, after a complicated event. It’s disappointing though that Robert Kubica was not able to repeat his stellar performance on our tyres of last year, when he was dominating some of the stage times. Full snow conditions would have suited us better, but Monte Carlo is always unpredictable and we have taken away some useful information for the future.”
Pirelli’s next World Rally Championship event will be Rally Sweden from February 12-14: the only full snow rally in the championship. Pirelli’s Sottozero ice tyres will also be in action the weekend before in Latvia, at the opening round of the European Rally Championship.