Pirelli to make WRC comeback
WRC competitors will be able to select tyres from an additional manufacturer in 2014 after Pirelli registered as an official supplier to the Championship. The FIA confirmed on 1 August that the Italian manufacturer will join existing suppliers Michelin, Dmack and Hankook, who continues to supply tyres to Junior WRC.
“We are obviously very pleased to have competition between four manufacturers next year, three of whom are already supporting our championships,” said FIA rally director, Jarmo Mahonen “Having Pirelli return to the series is also very positive, and together these four brands will provide a great platform for open competition as well as choice and variety for our competitors.”
Pirelli’s return marks something of a turnaround for the Italian tyre maker, who previously acted as WRC control tyre supplier for the 2008 to 2010 seasons before bowing out when the championship was opened to multiple tyre suppliers in the 2011 season. At the time, Pirelli said this change in regulation helped its decision to focus on Formula One. Pirelli was highly regarded as a WRC supplier and the company’s wish to return to this area of former success is understandable in light of its controversy-dogged F1 tyre supply. It is of course too early to speculate if Pirelli is seeking new motorsport engagements to lessen the impact of a potential F1 exit.
Paul Hembery says Pirelli is back by popular demand. “We’d like to thank the FIA for looking favourably on our candidature and we’re absolutely delighted to come back to a sport that we feel very much at home in,” stated the motorsport director. “We’ve also taken this decision following requests from our customers, now that the World and European championship regulations are becoming more closely aligned.”
According to Hembery, Pirelli doesn’t plan to compete for overall WRC victories as it currently has no agreements with official manufacturers. Instead, the tyre maker will “provide the best possible service” to its customers. “We’re confident in the excellence of our products, and their competitiveness with the latest generation of World Rally Car machinery.
“For a tyre manufacturer, rallying is a fantastic challenge as the tyres are tested on every road surface, in a huge variety of climatic conditions,” he added. “Rallying is an extreme sport on the limit of adhesion, where the tyres can make a massive difference. We’re really looking forward to that challenge and becoming a proactive partner in a championship that is set to go from strength to strength, thanks to increased promotion and a high level of interest from new manufacturers.”
The Italian manufacturer’s WRC comeback will take place at the opening round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Monte Carlo. This will take place between 14 and 19 January. For the rest of this current year, Pirelli’s ongoing rally tyre testing campaign will continue and see it refine the latest P Zero sealed surface products and Scorpion gravel tyres. The newest generation of Pirelli’s rally tyres have been adapted to the latest World Rally Championship regulations, Pirelli shares.