The last day of the Rally of Great Britain still seems like yesterday, with Petter Solberg completely dominating the event and winning the 2003 World Rally drivers' championship at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC on Pirelli P Zero tires.

Just two months after that triumph, with a 19th World Title in its pocket, Pirelli is ready for a new season of top-level competition.

The first of the 16 rallies in this year's championship and the most classical race of the season, the Rally of Monte Carlo, runs from January 22-25.

The P Zero range has won the Monte Carlo four times in the last 13 years with Carlos Sainz in 1991 and 1995, with Toyota and Subaru respectively; with Subaru and Piero Liatti in '97; then with Tommi Makinen [Subaru] two years ago.

All of those occasions were victories heavily influenced by tyre performance: a factor that will be crucial once again this year, when the P Zero range for asphalt and snow/ice will have to face the complex conditions of the 'Monte' with, perhaps, its most celebrated weapon: maximum versatility.

"Pirelli knows pretty well what it needs to win at Monte Carlo," declared Fiorenzo Brivio, head of the Group's rally operations, "and so does Subaru, a team with which we have competed non-stop since the Monte Carlo of 10 years ago. As with every year, the problem on the French roads will be to ensure the maximum competitiveness of our P Zero range, evolved for and specialised in the severe technical demands of this event. You need to offer the best grip possible on all the types of asphalt: from dry to damp, wet to more or less snow and ice.

"We try to anticipate all the possible weather variations, which are particularly uncertain in this rally. Pirelli will also provide a driver reconnoitring and observer service to predict with greater precision the possible weather conditions on the Special Stages."

At Monte Carlo, the P Zero range will usher in the first of its many new developments in both materials and construction technology, which are likely to be introduced throughout the 2004 season.

In addition, the teams will be limited to a choice of only two types of tread pattern this year, while there will be freedom in the selection of tread compounds. Obviously, Monte Carlo is an exception: The almost certain presence of snow and ice, at least on some stages, will make additional specialised tyres necessary, including those with studs.

Two tread patterns for asphalt and two for snow:

The Monegasque Special Stages are, perhaps, the most complex of the whole world championship: a thousand different possibilities, from dry asphalt to maximum snow, and surfaces that are often covered with ice, making the definition and choice of tyres extremely difficult.

Pirelli will take a range of about 2,000 P Zero tyres to Monte Carlo for the WRC cars, divided by size and characteristics as shown below and all of them equipped with the EMI anti-deflation system:

RX: Size 225/650-18 (Asphalt, dry to partially damp)RE: Size 225/650-18 (Intermediate tyre)WX1: Size 225/55-18 (Tyre for mixed surfaces)S1: Size 135/90-16 (Tyre for all snow)

The Pirelli team conquers the S1600:

As with 2003, the P Zero range will begin the World Championship by supplying its tyres to just one WRC team: Subaru, the world champion constructor from 1995 to 1997, and with which Pirelli won the 1995 World Drivers' Championship (Colin McRae), the 2001 (Richard Burns) and the 2003 (Petter Solberg).

In each 2004 world title rally, the Japanese team run by Prodrive will enter a basic squad of two latest evolution Imprezas for the reigning world champions, Solberg-Phil Mills, and the new young acquisitions Mikko Hirvonen-Jarmo Lehtinen.

Race by race, Pirelli will also supply its tyres to entrants who do not compete on a regular basis for the world titles. There will be no Group N cars at Monte Carlo, because the first rally of the season does not count towards the Production Car World Championship, which Pirelli also dominated in 2003, and which will take place this year over seven events, starting with the Rally of Sweden in February.

But this year, Pirelli's new rallying adventure begins on the roads of the South of France, its tyres exclusively equipping all the cars entered for the Super 1600 [Junior] World Championship.

This world series, maybe better known as the 'Mundialito', comes after the great sporting and technical success it achieved in 2003, and it will be contested in seven rallies, which will be particularly competitive.

Pirelli's partnership with the Super 1600 World Championship is of considerable importance, especially in strategic terms, for the P Zero. It will enable the company to work closely with many car manufacturers (Fiat, Opel, Volkswagen, Citro?n, Renault, Ford, Suzuki and others) who are directly involved in this world championship, while entrusting private teams with the sports management of their participation. And, above all, it opens the door to that world of young rally competitors (to compete in the Super 1600, drivers must have been born after January 1, 1975), who will be the lifeblood of future top-level rallying.

Pirelli's guidelines for the Super 1600 World Championship, which has been inspired by the current techno-sporting regulations, will be to supply a range of multi-purpose and identical tyres for all competing drivers and teams, while, obviously, ensuring the maximum technical support in both testing and during the championship itself.

Tyres for the Super 1600 The Mundialito's regulations are especially restrictive as far as tyres are concerned. Two types are permitted for asphalt rallies, one for dry surfaces and one for the wet. Only one tyre type will be available for events on gravel Stages. But, as for the WRC cars, the Monte Carlo Rally is an exception for the Super 1600s. On the French roads and considering the multiplicity of weather conditions that could be encountered, the cars will be able to choose between three different types of tyre, plus a fourth for maximum snow conditions, subject to FIA permission and only for unexpected snow falls. These are the P Zero tyres available to Super 1600 competitors at Monte Carlo:

RS: Size 200/625-17 (Asphalt, from dry to partially damp)RE: Size 200/625-17 (Intermediate tyre)WM: Size 165/80-15 (Tyre for mixed surfaces)SA: Size 135/85-15 (Studded tyre for much snow)

 

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