MRF labels Rally di Roma “end of stage one” in tire development

Fourth place with Craig Breen on the first ERC event of the year is just the start for the Indian company


MRF’s arrival in the European Rally Championship on Rally di Roma marked the start of not only a new chapter for the Indian tire manufacturer, but also for the development of its rubber.

Craig Breen drove a Hyundai i20 R5 equipped with the company’s tires on the rally and finished fourth. It’s expected that he will do the full season with the team, while also juggling a part-time World Rally Championship drive with Hyundai Motorsport.

Roma’s asphalt surface is always tough on tires, and so proved to be a very useful test for MRF and its tire guru Fiore Brivio – who also masterminded DMACK’s rise from lesser-known name to WRC rally-winning tire manufacturer – with Elfyn Evans on Rally GB – in 2017.


Photo: FIA ERC

“It is [a great weekend],” Brivio told DirtFish at the end of the event on Sunday.

“At the end of the day we are happy to be here. It is the end of first stage of the development for us that started in 2019.

“More than 2000km (1242 miles) of tests on different surfaces, but of course we have to do a lot more. And we can do it. We have all the potential to do, and we will be here for long [time].


Photo: FIA ERC

“From my side, since my first contact with MRF I had no doubt they had the potential to do good. They had everything in place, it’s just a question to get involved, get the right information, get the right direction and they could get anywhere.”

Brivio doesn’t just have ambitions of taking MRF to the podium’s top step in the ERC, but “to repeat the success and go beyond” what he achieved with DMACK a few years ago.

MRF’s team coordinator Vivek Ponnusamy was just as pleased with the Roma result, and applauded how “everyone was absolutely passionate” within the team, from the stage-side technical team all the way up to the company chairman.

Ponnusamy has overseen MRF’s recent success in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, where it has won several titles over the last 16 years.

“It’s a passion which drives it, and that’s why [the tire sidewall] is a red and white color, because red is always passion,” said Ponnusamy, who’s worked on MRF’s APRC program since mid-2018.

The local BRC Racing team was behind the car Breen drove on the rally and was one of many parties that Ponnusamy thanked for the result. It will be a totally different challenge for MRF when the ERC heads to its first gravel rally, but one the company is looking forward to.

“Now we’re coming into Europe, which is going to be a challenge,” added Ponnusamy.

“And it’s a pleasant challenge. If you don’t have challenge, you don’t have quality. You don’t have quality; you don’t have a market. So that is what we are here for. But we know what we are up against here.”

Words:Elliot Wood