Pirelli's re-designed Sottozero 'ice' tyre will make its debut on Rally Norway this week, the second round in the 2009 World Rally Championship.

Up until now virtually all WRC ice tyres have been constructed in very narrow 16 inch diameters with the objective of providing a long and thin contact patch capable of biting deep into snow, whilst still providing good traction capability.

With only one true 'winter' rally in the WRC though this has always meant a costly exercise for the teams, buying stocks of narrow 16 inch wheels which then can not be used in any other WRC event.

As such, as part of a move to cut costs, the traditional skinny tyres have been replaced by traditional width rubber this year and early indications, from pre-event testing, are promising.

"The new Sottozero, armed with 384 studs, each 7mm long, utilizes a very open, aggressive asymmetric tread pattern and a thermal compound that meets the challenge not only of providing grip in sub-zero temperatures but also the ability to retain the studs during hard driving," explained a statement from Pirelli.

"The size is 205/65 x 15, though the construction has been optimized to create as narrow a contact patch as possible consistent with use on a standard 7 x 15 inch rim."

Pirelli rally manager, Mario Isola, is confident drivers' will find the new tyre is up to scratch.

"Rallying on snow is always a great spectacle but it is also highly demanding on the tyres," he continued. "We have put a lot of work into this new Sottozero 'ice' tyre and we are sure it will give a high level of confidence to the drivers in the snowy conditions of Norway."

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile, who tested with the new tyre for the first time in December, added that he has no worries.

"The [new] tyre felt extremely stable [during our pre-event tests] and the Focus WRC seemed better under braking than on the narrower tyre we used previously. In normal winter conditions I believe we could be faster so I have no concerns about its introduction," he summed-up.



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