In case you hadn’t noticed, Pirelli’s coming back to the World Rally Championship. Yes, yes, we know, the Italians never left. But you know what we mean: the Milanese will be back at the heart of rallying’s most important series. Every season-long challenger next season will wear Pirellis.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the five tires Pirelli will be bringing from round one forwards.
As we know, the Monte Carlo Rally still offers the widest choice of covers in an effort to cope with, potentially, the most diverse conditions. The French Alps can range from anything from sunshine and 15 degrees to full ice and minus 15 driving through snow, torrential rain and mucky slush.
And the car’s only connection with mother earth is the contact patch that sits at every corner.
There’s always a Monte-specific tire made and Pirelli’s answer to that is the Sottozero. This is a symmetric, directional tread soft compound winter tire with a moderately open pattern and lots of siping (deep, narrow cuts) across the center blocks to improve longitudinal traction. The Sottozero comes in two forms: with and without studs.
The studs sit in the inside intermediate tread blocks and offer 2mm protrusion.
The other Monte offering will, of course, be the P Zero – the asphalt tire.
The WRC SS compound is a supersoft option only available in the French Alps. Otherwise, it’s the WRC S variant which will be used in drier, warmer and sunnier conditions.
P Zero also comes in a hard compound for longer, hotter more abrasive asphalt events. This tire has long been a staple of the Pirelli range, offering two longitudinal grooves in the internal part of the tire to aid the evacuation of water.
The outer part of the tire has fewer grooves in an effort to maximize dry grip and lateral stability.
If the going gets rainy on asphalt, the drivers will reach for the Cinturato, the full wet option. The symmetrical directional tread pattern is made up of three deep longitudinal cuts along with multiple transverse cuts out of the shoulders. This one is designed to shift as much water as possible, with the softer compound also lowering the working temperature range.
Get to the gravel and it’s the return of the old favorite: the Scorpion. One of the most famous tread patterns in rallying will come in hard and soft compound and with added beef in the sidewalls.
The Sottozero (ice) is unique to Rally Sweden. This is the miracle worker that allows the world’s finest drivers to dance on ice at insane speeds across surfaces you and I couldn’t stand up on.
This tire has to cope with a wide variety of conditions, ranging from slush and stones right through to solid ice and deep snow. It manages that with a compromised asymmetric tread pattern which offers longitudinal and transverse blocks to help dig through snow and cut into ice.
Another key to a solid Sweden tire is stud retention. This is something Pirelli mastered years ago with its patented method of bonding each of the 384 pins (all with 7mm protrusion) into every tire.