Sweden is one of the most specialised events on the world rally calendar, calling for the ultimate in grip and traction over surfaces that are often too slippery to stand up on. On this year’s event, Pirelli introduces a new tyre: the Sottozero Ice 1.
Compared to the previous Sottozero Ice, the Sottozero Ice 1 benefits from a new design on the external part of the tread, which makes the blocks even stronger and helps to retain all the studs: 384 in total, featuring unique tungsten tips. The total number of studs is the same as last year, as is the seven-millimetre protrusion. So effective are these studs at penetrating through the surface layer of snow and biting into the compacted ice below, that the traction on offer to the drivers is actually superior to most gravel rallies.
Pirelli will be equipping one WRC1 car from the top class, driven by Lorenzo Bertelli, together with a number of the leading WRC2 runners.
Rally Sweden will get underway from the city of Karlstad on Thursday evening, with the service park also located in the harbour area of the city throughout all three days, in a new move for this year. It’s the only round of the World Rally Championship which is held in two countries – as the action also ventures into Norway on Friday – and one of the quickest events of the season, with just 4.6 seconds separating the top three heading into the final stage last year.
Karlstad is located in the ‘Varmlands’ area of Sweden, and in recent years warmer temperatures have meant that it’s not always been full snow on the only winter rally of the championship. When conditions are mixed, this makes the job of the tyre even harder, as loose gravel can pull out some of the studs. A patented process that fixes the stud in place during vulcanisation helps to minimise this potential problem for the Pirelli runners.
Rally Sweden covers 21 special stages totalling 331.21 kilometres. Around a quarter of the total route is completely new this year and there are no longer any full service halts at midday: putting the accent on consistency for the drivers and cars.
Leading Pirelli drivers on Rally Sweden
Lorenzo Bertelli leads the charge for Pirelli in the top WRC1 class, driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the second time in Sweden. Highlights of the Pirelli entry in WRC2 – one step below the main WRC1 class – are local Scandinavian experts Anders Grondal and Fredrik Ahlin, both driving a Ford Fiesta R5. Former FIA Production champion Max Rendina also takes part in the event on Pirelli tyres as well former European vice champion Michal Solowow.
Just a single tyre is allowed for Sweden, which this year is the new Sottozero Ice 1 in 205/65-15 size. It’s been especially developed for snow and ice, and Sweden is the only World Rally Championship outing for this tyre all year.
As there is only one type of tyre allowed for Sweden, the rules are very straightforward. World Rally Car crews can use 24 tyres on the event. The WRC2 crews have 22 tyres available.
Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli rally activity manager says: “We’ve used our experience to further evolve the Sottozero Ice, and the result is the new and improved Sottozero Ice 1. In particular, this has made an important step forwards when it comes to stud retention by strengthening the tread blocks – and with recent temperatures in Sweden having been on the warm side, this aspect is set to become even more crucial this year. We’re confident that we have a product that is able to cope well with a wide variety of conditions, so we’re looking forward to giving our drivers the opportunity to fight with the factory-backed cars, as was the case in WRC2 at the opening round in Monte Carlo.”