Pirelli has underlined its commitment to rallying and unearthing the sport's future stars by supporting the new WRC Academy as the Official Tyre Supplier from 2011.
Conceived as the replacement for the existing FIA Junior World Rally Championship, the WRC Academy will be contested by aspiring drivers on six rounds of next season's World Rally Championship, which Pirelli has supplied tyres to on an exclusive basis from 2008-2010.
Academy participants will compete in identical Ford Fiestas, which will conform to the R2 regulations to control performance and restrict the financial outlay to 135,000 Euros for a season. In order to ensure a level playing field, all cars will be prepared by the same M-Sport organisation based in the United Kingdom.
Pirelli has been a long-term backer of up and coming rallying talent and demonstrated its commitment by supporting the Pirelli Star Driver scheme, which has provided the opportunity for five young competitors to take part on six rounds of the WRC for each of the last two seasons in identical cars as part of a joint initiative with the FIA, motorsport's world governing body.
The Pirelli Star Driver scheme will continue in 2011 with a fresh intake of six drivers from around the world, who will take part in the WRC Academy against other young competitors. The six Pirelli Star Drivers, Fredrik Ahlin, Craig Breen, Jan Cerny, Andrea Crugnola, Brendan Reeves and Molly Taylor, were selected following an assessment process in Spain recently.
As well as demonstrating their talents behind the wheel, the six had to show their level of physical fitness and ability to communicate with the media. All WRC Academy participants will be able to benefit from this type of training when the series gets underway next year.
"We are delighted to have reached an agreement with North One Sport, the promoter of the WRC Academy to support this hugely exciting new initiative,” said Paul Hembery, Pirelli's Motorsport Director.
"For years Pirelli has competed at the highest level of rallying, winning a total of 179 world championship events to date, but has never lost sight of the importance of helping young drivers in order to help bring forward the next generation of talent to ensure the sport continues to prosper in the future.
"The WRC Academy will provide an affordable opportunity for young drivers from across the globe to compete on six rounds of the prestigious World Rally Championship in a level playing field where the most talented will shine through due to the fact they will be at the wheel of equal machinery."
Pirelli will supply asphalt and gravel specification tyres to the WRC Academy, which will be contested on both surfaces.
A calendar for 2011 and regulations regarding tyre quantities and approved modifications will be announced in due course.