Italian tyre firm Pirelli has claimed victory on the 78th Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of this year’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge, with Mikko Hirvonen in the Ford Fiesta S2000.
Hirvonen’s success came on the international competition debut for the all-new Fiesta, which will form the basis of Ford’s next World Rally Car from 2011 onwards. The win also marked Pirelli’s first overall victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and the first Monte Carlo win for Pirelli since Sebastien Loeb and Citroen triumphed in the Principality in 2008.
As usual, this year’s Monte Carlo Rally contained a huge variety of conditions that ranged from dry asphalt to snow, ice and black ice. Temperatures dipped as low as minus 18 degrees Centigrade, with the levels of grip constantly changing.
Under these circumstances, the tyres play a key role. Often the correct choice lies in selecting the best compromise for a loop of stages, rather than opting for one tyre that suits a specific aspect of the route.
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge regulations allow free competition between tyre manufacturers, and give competitors the chance to use a wide variety of different covers, including snow tyres with studs, rain tyres, intermediates and slicks.
Equipped with Pirelli’s famous Sottozero tyres, Hirvonen led from the first stage to the last, eventually winning by nearly two minutes. He used a wide-ranging selection of tyre patterns and compounds, setting three fastest stage times en route to victory.
The 29-year-old Finn commented: “Monte Carlo is a rally that is all about tyres. It’s a question of getting the choice right and basically making sure that the tyres are up to the job. Even though the conditions were changing all the time, we managed to find enough grip to allow us to be extremely competitive.”
M-Sport Team Principal Malcolm Wilson added: “We’ve had great support for this event from Pirelli. We did a tremendous amount of testing with them and they came up with a great tyre package, which worked very well for this event. I’m glad to see that their efforts have been rewarded.”
Pirelli currently supplied the World Rally Championship with control tyres, as part of a three-year deal from 2008-2010. The company is also active in several other national and international rally series all over the world, including the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Pirelli’s Rally Manager Mario Isola concluded: “We’re delighted with this important success, not just because Monte Carlo is such a well-known and prestigious event, but also because it’s a rally where tyres really make a difference. Having supplied the World Rally Championship with control tyres for the last three years, it is also very satisfying to confirm our progress by beating rival tyre companies in a straight fight.”