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Pirelli: Gearing up for the 2009 World Rally Championship

The company from Milan is, for the second year running, a key player at the WRC as the exclusive tyre supplier. Pirelli P Zero and Sottozero are the tyres chosen to give drivers the best chance of coping with the weather and road surface conditions at the championship's first race, taking place on the unpredictable course at Sligo, Ireland.

Sligo, 30th January 2009.

The 2009 World Rally Championship kicks off in Ireland and again this year Pirelli is one of the key players : the exclusive tyre supplier. From the first race, which starts on 30th January, the 2009 WRC announces a season full of technical challenges for both teams and drivers.

Mud, snow and ice are just a few of the opening rally's challenges, making tyre choice a critical factor in a race that promises to be a fantastic sporting event. The other 11 rounds are no less exciting: from snow in Norway to the dirt roads of Australia and Argentina.

"Pirelli, in its second year as sole supplier, is ready." - states Paul Hembery, Head of Pirelli Motorsport - "Our commitment is to ensure, with our P Zero, Sottozero and Scorpion tyres, that all teams taking part in the race are on a level playing field and to guarantee high performance on all road surfaces and in all types of weather. A commitment that was proven last year by the results achieved and the acknowledgements given by teams and drivers. This year, despite the global economic crisis and repercussions on the world of sport, we are expecting another great championship with Citroën and Ford continuing to battle it out for the world titles."


Teams and drivers are ready for the start line, but there are many question marks over how to approach the first race. The 2009 WRC in fact opens on the tricky and unpredictable Sligo course (this year replacing the traditional curtain opener in Monte Carlo) which throws up the possibility of being faced with snow or ice, making the tyre factor crucial.

Indeed it is the harshness of the course that has prompted Pirelli, in agreement with the FIA, to provide a choice of two tyre specifications for the competitors.

The tyres available to drivers are: the asphalt Pirelli P Zero tyre and the winter tyre, Pirelli Sottozero.


The first tyre is a soft compound, 235/40-18 size for 4WD cars. It's an E3 pattern road tyre, able to provide maximum grip in both wet and dry conditions.

The second tyre, thanks to a thermal compound, is designed to optimise performance specifically in winter weather conditions and is recommended should you encounter snow or ice on the course.


P Zero and Sottozero belong to two families of Pirelli products which are successful on the market too. These are tyres developed for road use, not just for competition, in line with Pirelli's tradition that views sporting commitment as passion combined with the opportunity to gain experience in racing environments, even in the most extreme driving conditions, which can then be applied to its standard products.


The chance for drivers to choose between asphalt and winter tyres is the result of an agreement between the teams and is based on the severe challenges thrown up by the course in 2007, which, due to mud, produced extreme racing conditions.

For both priority drivers and non-priority ones, the regulations set a maximum on the number of tyres that can be used during a race. For the former, in the case of the Irish Rally, this is set at 48, the equivalent of 6 tyres per service set out in the race programme (7 in Ireland) plus 6 for the shakedown.

Of these 48 Pirelli P Zero asphalt tyres, 16 can be substituted with Pirelli Sottozero tyres. 'Non-priority' drivers have a lower number of tyres but the opportunity to choose remains the same.


Last year, the first championship to feature a single tyre supplier, Pirelli supplied more than 23,000 tyres to the various teams competing in the WRC, using on average, about 25 technicians at every round, 2 equipment trucks and a minimum of 3 trailers to transport the tyres.

The tender called by the FIA for the supply of tyres in the 2008-2010 period was won by Pirelli in 2007, thanks to a proposal, the cornerstone of which is the promotion of young drivers and endorsement of rallying worldwide. The Pirelli star driver project, aimed at the development of talented young drivers is evidence of this support.

January 2009