Pirelli`s new generation of Sottozero studded tyres have proved their worth on the World Rally Championship`s only all-snow event, Rally Norway, which took place close to the Olympic city of Lillehammer last weekend.
Five-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, who claimed his latest title on Pirelli tyres last year, won in Norway after a close battle with the likewise Pirelli-equipped Ford Focus RS WRC of Mikko Hirvonen throughout all three days of the event.
The Italian tyre company has an exclusive three-year agreement running until 2010 to supply tyres to the World Rally Championship, which takes in extremes ranging from the minus 25 Celsius temperatures in snowy Norway this week to the searing 35-degree heat of rallies such as the Acropolis in Greece.
In the past, spiked snow tyres for WRC winter rallies used to be of a special narrow size, designed to bite through soft snow to the harder surfaces underneath. This year Pirelli`s tungsten-tipped Sottozero winter tyres (which contain 384 studs on each cover) have been designed to fit on standard 15-inch gravel wheel rims, as part of the FIA`s cost-cutting drive which is fully supported by Pirelli.
Claiming his 49th career win, Loeb commented: "These were classic winter conditions and we had very good grip from the Pirelli Sottozeros. Sometimes, when you could see the ice, it was hard to believe just how much grip there was from the tyres."
Despite being used on surfaces too slippery for most people to stand up on, Pirelli`s tyres performed perfectly in the demanding conditions, with none of the front-running crews reporting problems with stud-loss or punctures.
Pirelli`s Rally Manager Mario Isola commented: "We`re delighted that our new snow tyre has made such a competitive and problem-free debut in these extremely wintry conditions, where temperatures were sometimes close to minus 30 degrees Celsius."
"Although this tyre is of a different design to our asphalt and gravel rally tyres, it is still closely related to Pirelli`s road car products, underlining the fact that motorsport provides us with the ultimate research and development tool for our high-performance and all-weather road tyres," Isola pointed out.
Pirelli also exclusively supplies tyres to the Production Car World Rally Championship, which got underway on Rally Norway. The showroom-class category was won by Swedish driver Patrik Sandell at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia S2000: the first time that such a machine has won a round of the championship.
Using the same Pirelli Sottozero tyres as the World Rally Cars, Sandell took a commanding win from local man Eyvind Brynildsen in a Mitsubishi Lancer, highlighting the versatility of the Sottozero rubber.
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