It’s not a lottery, despite what folk will tell you. It is, from time to time, a vaguely informed shot in the dark.
What are we talking about? Tire selection on the Monte Carlo Rally.
From a tire engineering perspective, the ideal scenario is a set of consistent conditions offering comparable feedback and a stable, expected outcome.
The Monte’s not like that. OK, sometimes when winter goes AWOL, you’ll get an unusually dry one, which becomes something of a chilly Sanremo. But the norm is a bit of everything.
For Pirelli, back to supply the World Rally Championship’s biggest of big guns after a decade away, there couldn’t be a more complicated return than the Monte Carlo Rally.
And coming into that event off the back of a coronavirus-hit development cycle only makes the whole thing that bit edgier.
Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola doesn’t really do edgy. Despite a decade in Formula 1, Isola knows rallying and knows what’s needed.
“The first test with Toyota and Hyundai was positive,” he tells DirtFish. “It’s fair to say it hasn’t been the easiest time in our life to develop the product during the pandemic, but we are happy so far about the test.
“The priority is to supply tires which are good and durable. The situation is different now [with the control tire], what we want to do is make sure every team is the same – every team will have a dedicated engineer, like we do in F1. And then we have a chief engineer and Terenzio [Testoni, rally manager] in charge.”
Let’s hear from the man in charge of a test that went through the four options: studded and stud-less winter, soft and super-soft compound dry tires available.
“The two teams that tested went through the complete range of tires,” says Testoni. “That’s good.
“And we had good weather with some dry, some slush, some ice and snow. The teams understand that we’re with a control tire now and, yes, performance is important, but it’s not the priority.
“For us, we want tires which are easy for the teams to work with in terms of set-up. At the test, the teams were able to understand the range in which the tires will work.”
The M-Sport Ford team skipped the test in December and will conduct its pre-Monte running this month once its driver line-up is established.