Pirelli's Soft Compound Tyres: The Revised Rally Japan Poses a New Challenge
Rally Japan - the penultimate round of the 2008 World Rally Championship - gets underway on Friday from Sapporo. This year, the event is all-new compared to the route in recent seasons. The crews, all using Pirelli's soft-compound Scorpion tyres, will tackle a total of 29 special stages. Japan is likely to be crucial in deciding the outcome of the 2008 drivers' and manufacturers' championships.
Milan 27 October 2008 - Following the two Mediterranean asphalt rounds in Spain and Corsica, the World Rally Championship heads for the Far East and the penultimate round of the series, Rally Japan.
The event will as always take place on the island of Hokkaido but now it moves from Obihiro (where the rally was based for the first four years of its existence) to Sapporo: the host city of the Olympics in 1972 and a venue for the World Cup 30 years later. For the first time in the history of the World Rally Championship, a spectator superspecial will be run within an entirely covered stadium, with two cars competing alongside each other.
The special stages used this year are completely new, and as was the case in Finland two months ago - and will equally be the case in Wales in December - the drivers competing in the World Rally Championship and Production car World Rally Championship (PWRC) will use the soft-compound Pirelli Scorpion tyres. According to rules set down by the FIA, world motor sport's governing body, competitors will not be allowed to make cuts in any of the Pirelli tyres used on this 14th round of the 2008 World Rally Championship.
The 2008 Rally Japan is likely to have a decisive impact on the championship, as the new champions in both the drivers' and manufacturers' series could already be crowned on Sunday night in Sapporo.
So far, Loeb-Elena and Citroen have the upper hand over Hirvonen-Lehtinen and the factory Ford team. Ford however has no intention of giving up, having recently carried out some testing in the south of France with Hirvonen and Latvala to further improve the Focus WRC08 on gravel.
Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli's chief technician on the World Rally Championship, commented: "I'm sure that this new event around Sapporo will be a very interesting one. I've been able to drive some of the stages and I found them to be truly challenging. The gravel roads tackled by the World Championship protagonists are medium to fast forest tracks, which will lead to some quite high average speeds. But with the rain that is likely to be present during the event, I think the crews will mostly be concentrating on avoiding mistakes under braking or through the corners, which could have costly consequences or cause some crews to get stuck."