Pirelli unveiled its new range of FIA World Rally Championship tyres on Thursday (8 October) morning ahead of the firm’s return as the series’ sole supplier next year.
The company, which has a three-year agreement, introduced its new rubber at Rally Italia Sardegna, where test driver Andreas Mikkelsen gave passenger rides to media through the Olmedo shakedown stage in a Citroën C3 World Rally Car.
The Norwegian has helped Pirelli create a suite of tyres for gravel, asphalt, snow and ice with a focus on durability, performance and adaptability. Despite inevitable disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic, it has stuck to its development schedule.
On Sunday fellow Norwegian and 2003 world champion Petter Solberg will drive the C3, with Mikkelsen reading the pace notes, through the rally closing Sassari – Argentiera Wolf Power Stage.
Head of rally racing Terenzio Testoni said: “The next time you see our Pirelli tyres on a World Rally Championship event will be next year’s Monte-Carlo Rally, when we begin our tenure as sole supplier.
“In creating these tyres, we’ve used the lessons learned in Formula 1, as well as our previous experience in rallying, other motorsport and ultra-high performance tyres for the road.”
Pirelli will also support the newly-established FIA Rally Star programme, which brings together national motor sport federations from around the globe to identify the sport’s stars of the future.
Starting next year, talented drivers between the ages of 17-26 will be put through a multi-phase selection process, ending with four drivers winning the opportunity to compete in the FIA Junior WRC.
Pirelli’s new range
The WRC season provides a comprehensive test for any tyre supplier, beginning with the wintry conditions of the legendary ‘Monte’. Here, the stages can be completely dry in parts and covered in ice and snow in others.
Drivers can choose from the Sottozero Snow tyres, fitted with or without studs, alongside more regular asphalt tyres.
In more extreme conditions faced on Scandinavian winter rallies like Sweden, a full Sottozero Ice tyre is provided. Each features 384 studs that bite into the surface and provide incredible levels of grip, but the tyre must be able to retain those studs over sections that can feature more gravel, especially when temperatures are milder.
Over the remainder of the season, teams and drivers face a spectrum of different gravel rallies. A single Scorpion tyre, available in hard and soft compounds, must handle extreme heat and rocky roads at events such as such as Rally Italia Sardegna, stand up to stunning speeds seen in Finland and offer grip in muddy and wet conditions.
There is a similar diversity across the pure asphalt events, for which a single P Zero tyre will be provided in hard and soft compounds.
These can vary from smooth circuit-like roads of Spain to broken and dirty surfaces where grip is at a premium. All asphalt tyres must be suitable for dry and wet conditions but a full Cinturato rain tyre is also available for extreme conditions to help clear standing water.