The FIA World Motor Sport Council has approved the appointment of Pirelli as the new and sole tyre provider to the World Rally Championship (WRC) from 2021. The agreement, which will be valid for four seasons until the end of 2024, makes the Italian firm the sole supplier of tyres for all cars competing in the RC1 class (Rally1), and for the R5 vehicles belonging to the RC2 class (Rally2).
FIA’s Rally director, Yves Matton, had the following to say regarding the new stage which begins with the Pirelli-WRC partnership:
“This is an exciting new phase in the development of the World Rally Championship and we are happy to announce Pirelli as our exclusive single tyre supplier for a period of four years from 2021. I am convinced Pirelli will bring a wealth of experience to the program as well as a good range of tyres for the teams to choose from“.
The brand from Milan has defeated other candidates MRF, Hankook and most importantly Michelin, who had been WRC supplier since 2010. The new partnership constitutes a great victory for Pirelli, who is expected to get extraordinary commercial and marketing benefits worldwide.
The Italian tyre makers had already been suppliers to the WRC between 2008 and 2010 and, although they have always had a commercial presence in the competition, now they have come to finally dominate it. Before winning the tender, Pirelli was already supplying to the junior categories of the Championship as well as to the European Championship.
After a brief and temporary break from the WRC in 2017, Pirelli returned in 2018 with a brand new range of compounds. Its tyres, tailored for asphalt and gravel and with the possibility of them being studded for snow and ice, have demonstrated a very efficient performance although the WRC brands had not yet tried them in their vehicles.
The role of Pirelli at the WRC was key at some of the Championship’s most legendary moments. Amongst those, it is the seventh of Sébastien Loeb’s nine titles in 2010 on board a Citroën C4 WRC. During that same season, by the way, Ford was also wearing the Italian tyres.
From that season on, Michelin had maintained a strong relationship with most of the official teams. In fact, since the new regulatory pack came into force in 2017 until now, all of the major WRC teams (Toyota, Citroen, Hyundai and M-Sport) have used the French compounds.
More recently, Pirelli has had some successes on the WRC support categories including a victory at the latest Wales-Great Britain Rally with the WRC2 class. On that occasion, 2003 WRC champion, Petter Solberg, took the win on board a Volkswagen Polo R5 with Pirelli tyres.
The relationship of the Italian firm with the WRC goes back to 1973, the inaugural edition of the competition. Since then, Pirelli has conquered a considerable number of victories and world titles. Their technical versatility has allowed the brand to be used in a wide range of vehicles with different characteristics.
Pirelli is also present in the Formula 1 World Champioship where, in late 2018, it extended its contract with the organizers for an extra four years until 2023.
Images: Volkswagen Motorsport & Petter Solberg.