Pirelli presents 2021 WRC tyre range
Despite disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, Pirelli maintained its schedule for developing the WRC tyres for the start of its three-year tenure as sole WRC tyre supplier in 2021. The tyre maker showed off the range today at an event on the opening day of Rally Italia Sardegna.
Since winning the FIA tender to become exclusive supplier to the World Rally Championship from next year, Pirelli says it has been “working hard” to create new tyres for the quickest WRC cars to ever race on gravel, asphalt, snow and ice. The tyre maker’s stated aim is to deliver durability, performance, and adaptability.
“After an intense preparation programme, we’re delighted to present our new tyres in Sardinia, and give some people the chance to experience them from the co-driver’s seat on the shakedown stage,” shares Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli’s head of rally racing. “Later this weekend, everyone will also see them in action when our former world champion, Petter Solberg, drives the Pirelli test car on the rally-ending power stage here at our home event in Sardinia. 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.”
Main features of the new range
The average WRC season tests any tyre supplier. The season usually begins with the wintery conditions of the legendary ‘Monte’. Here, the stages can be completely dry in some parts and covered in ice and snow in others. Drivers can choose from Pirelli’s Sottozero Snow tyres – fitted either with or without studs – alongside more regular asphalt tyres.
In the more extreme conditions faced on Scandinavian winter rallies like in 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 has to be able to retain those studs over sections that can feature more gravel, especially when temperatures are milder.
Over the remainder of the season, the teams and drivers face a full spectrum of different gravel rallies. A single Scorpion gravel tyre, available in hard and soft compounds, has to handle the extreme heat and rocky roads found around the Mediterranean – such as Rally Italia Sardinia – stand up to the stunning speeds seen on Rally Finland and offer grip in muddy and wet conditions like those usually found in Wales.
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 the smooth circuit-like roads of Spain to more broken and dirty surfaces where grip is at a premium. All asphalt tyres must be suitable for use in both dry and wet conditions – just as is the case on the road – but a full Cinturato rain tyre is also available for extreme conditions to help clear standing water.
Half a century of WRC involvement
Pirelli began its more or less continuous involvement in the World Rally Championship with the inauguration of the series (for manufacturers) in 1973. The company notched up its first win in Poland that same year, courtesy of Achim Warmbold in a Fiat 124. The drivers’ title began in 1979, and Pirelli won it a year later courtesy of Walter Rohrl in a Fiat 131 Abarth. Pirelli says that rallying primarily serves it an open-air laboratory where ideas for eventual roadgoing use are tested. This racetrack to road transfer has resulted in a number of important products for Pirelli. The modern Cinturato – which is widely chosen by some of the best-known car manufacturers as original equipment – and the P Zero, Pirelli’s flagship product, were born as a result of motorsport, as were the technologies used for winter and run-flat tyres.