Pirelli will return to the WRC with four completely new tyres intended not only for use at the pinnacle of the sport but also in other key rally championships all over the world.

The new product range was launched at last week's Autosport International Show and will make their competition debut at this weekend's Rallye Monte Carlo. Racing manager Mario Isola presented the new tyres in Birmingham and explained their characteristics ahead of the company's return.

"The hallmark of our new tyres is their versatility but at the same time their specific focus," he said, "So we have developed tyres like the RK for asphalt and Scorpion for gravel that are suited to wide variety of rallies, both on the World Championship and the European Championship.

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"We've also developed some specific tyres for more specialised events, such as Monte Carlo and Sweden. In line with the sporting regulations, we will have just one tread pattern for asphalt and gravel. This brings our competition tyres even closer to the tyres we make for the road."

The tyre that will be used most often this season is the new RK, in 235/40R18 size, which is available for all the top cars from the new R5 class upwards. This product, designed for asphalt, has two longitudinal grooves - in accordance with the regulations - which means that it can be used both in dry and wet conditions. The two longitudinal channels are positioned on the internal part of the tyre to ensure more effective water drainage and avoid aquaplaning. This also allows better cornering, when the car relies more heavily on the external part of the tyre that generates more grip thanks to a greater contact patch.

This tyre will be available in two compounds for the WRC: hard for dry conditions, and soft for wet or low-grip conditions. A third compound, supersoft, will be homologated for the Monte Carlo Rally, where the crews frequently encounter very cold conditions.

Completing the asphalt range for Monte Carlo is the Sottozero, in 235/40R18 size, which comes in two versions: studded, for snow and ice, and without studs - like a normal road car tyre.

For gravel rallies, Pirelli has created the Scorpion XR, in 205/65-15 size. This tyre, designed for tough gravel rallies, is distinguished by a symmetrical tread pattern that enhances durability and increases resistance to punctures. It is available in two compounds: hard for the most severe and abrasive conditions, such as those found in Portugal, Mexico and Italy, and soft for less aggressive surfaces, like Finland. The soft compound can also be used for cold conditions with mud, as often found on Rally GB.

Completing the all-new Pirelli range is the Sottozero Ice in 205/65-15 size. This studded tyre is designed exclusively for Rally Sweden, and is meant for snowy and icy stages. The 380 studs ensure high grip even in the most severe Scandinavian conditions. The tyre benefits from Pirelli's patented stud retention technology, where the compound design is specifically engineered to prevent the loss of studs during the stage.

Pirelli was last represented at the top level of world rallying between 2008-2010, when the company was sole supplier to all the teams. Pirelli also backed the Star Driver scheme and WRC Academy, with the aim of promoting the next generation of young drivers to the top of the sport. Now the Italian firm - currently exclusive supplier to F1 - returns in open competition, having been nominated together with three other tyre manufacturers to supply the WRC from 2014.

"We'd like to thank the FIA for looking favourably on our candidature and we're absolutely delighted to come back to a sport that we feel very much at home in," motorsport director Paul Hembery commented at the time of the announcement in August, "We've also taken this decision following requests from our customers, now that the World and European championship regulations are becoming more closely aligned.

"For the time being we don't have any agreements with any official manufacturers so we're not expecting to compete for overall victories, but instead provide the best possible service to our customers. We're confident in the excellence of our products, and their competitiveness with the latest generation of World Rally Car machinery.

"For a tyre manufacturer, rallying is a fantastic challenge as the tyres are tested on every road surface, in a huge variety of climatic conditions. Rallying is an extreme sport on the limit of adhesion, where the tyres can make a massive difference. We're really looking forward to that challenge and becoming a proactive partner in a championship that is set to go from strength to strength, thanks to increased promotion and a high level of interest from new manufacturers."