I want to take you back to August last year. To Sardinia. To Pirelli’s latest World Rally Championship development test. A revolutionary 2022 season was looming ever larger on the horizon and the Italian tire giant had a problem.
There wasn’t a Rally1 car to be seen. What to do? Pirelli’s rally activity manager had a plan.
“We put 100 kilos to our own test car,” Terenzio Testoni told DirtFish. “The teams were all busy with testing their [Rally1] hybrid cars and it wasn’t so easy for us to use one, so we added weight to the [2021 specification Ford Fiesta] World Rally Car we were using.
“As well as this, of course, we made a full simulation indoors and when we came to test the tires on the car for the first time in November, the results demonstrated what we had discovered in the simulation and the test.
“It was the only way for us to do it, but it worked very well. We couldn’t wait until November to start developing these new tires.”
The asphalt-specification PZero tires that will be in Monte Carlo this week were used for the first time at the penultimate round of last year’s series in Spain. Getting that early data was invaluable for Pirelli’s preparations for what’s going to be an exciting new era.
“Of course, we have to wait for the rally this week, but we are quite confident for this season,” said Testoni. “In Spain and from the testing at the end of last year, we have good confirmation from the teams.
“We had three factors to consider this season: the extra weight, the reduction in aerodynamic grip and the reduction in suspension travel – all of these things are having an impact on the level of grip available.
“With those things in our mind, we have worked a lot on the construction on the tires to make them stronger to take the extra weight and to remember the cars will have more than 500bhp when they are leaving the start line. We put all of this information and we came with the best solution from our research and development department.”
The Rally1 cars won’t feature a new product in Monte Carlo this week, but the Rally2 cars will – with a revised and stronger soft and super-soft PZero on offer for that category. Also new are the 17-inch tires available for Rally3 for the first time.
“Rally2 is a really important tire for national championships and this is part of the DNA for Pirelli,” said Testoni.
“We are really working to improve the performance even more in this area. We have new gravel, Tarmac and ice tires. We don’t use the gravel tires [for Rally2] in Portugal, we save for the next gravel event in Sardinia; we know a lot of our teams and drivers have a lot of the current gravel tires they want to use first.”
We won’t have to wait long before we see new boots in Rally1, with a new, stronger construction of tire coming for Rally Sweden next month.
“For Rally1, we have a lot of exciting developments coming,” Testonia added. “In Sweden we have a tire with the same [tread] pattern, but new construction and then the [new] gravel tire in Portugal – we have been working on this since Estonia last year. I think we made a step with this tire in the November testing. We are happy.
“We never stop developing. The plan in Pirelli is to always be ready, we always have something in the pocket if we need it – we don’t wait for the problem to come.”
In terms of this week’s Monte Carlo Rally opener, the Rally1 cars will have 80 tires from which to make their choice of the 38 they are permitted to use. The options include 24 PZero super-softs and the same number of studded Sottozeros, 20 PZero softs and 12 non-studded Sottozeros.