F1 News, Views and Reviews

Pirelli Exit WRC To Focus On F1

Pirelli have confirmed they will be exiting tyre production in the World Rally Championship in order to focus on their tyre supply to Formula One.

Pirelli, the Italian tyre manufacturer, won the contract to be the sole tyre supplier to Formula One earlier this year and have already begun testing ahead of their supply to the teams.  Using an un-raced Toyota TF109 with Nick Heidfeld at the wheel, early tyre tests have been said to be positive.

The manufacturer say that F1 isn’t the only reason why they are leaving.  They have added that the extent of the rule changes in WRC for 2011 and then in 2012 have forced them the last mile out of the door.  Michelin are said to be interested in tendering for the now open WRC contract.

“The first point to make here is the way the rules have been changed,” Paul Hembery, boss of Pirelli Motorsport told Autosport. “There have been three significant rule changes in the last nine months – and, possibly, an even more significant change coming in 2012.

“In December we tendered for another three-year deal to supply tyres for WRC. Once again, our tender was set out to provide finance for continued investment in the FIA, in the sport’s promoter and, of course in the Pirelli Star Driver scheme which we financed from its inception in 2008.

“That three-year tender was rejected and we were offered a one-year extension on the same terms as the current three-year deal, then a one-year deal on the new tender conditions – that was something we felt was unacceptable.

“And now we come to the current regulation, which we feel is neither a control tyre scenario or competition. And, based on the experiences we have had in GT racing, where regulations similar to those in the WRC were open to interpretation and were flexible if a [tyre] manufacturer was having some difficulties. We explained those issues [to the FIA] and we have had no significant response. These rules leave a lot to be desired and we have communicated these limitations to the FIA.

“Overall it just feels that we were not wanted in the sport despite delivering run-flat technology, a Tarmac-specification tyre [which is] fully EEC road homologated, an offer to bring self-sealing, puncture-resistance to the sport, aromatic oil-free tyres and, of course, a level puncture resistance that was unheard of before 2008. We leave the sport with our head held high, having supported the series through some of the most difficult economic conditions ever experienced.”


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