Loeb clinches rally championship on Pirelli tires

Jan. 1, 2020
In addition to winning the Rallye de France by 35.7 seconds, Sebastien Loeb has captured the circuit's world title.
In addition to winning the Rallye de France by 35.7 seconds, Sebastien Loeb has captured the circuit's world title.

It marked Loeb's 60th rally victory and seventh global championship – the 11th by a driver using Pirelli tires.

While Loeb's triumph was widely expected, the rain-hit asphalt of the Alsace region became coated in mud and gravel dragged onto the road by competing crews taking "cuts" through corners, according to Pirelli's senior World Championship Rally (WRC) tire engineer Matteo Braga.

"It meant Pirelli's P Zero asphalt tire, fitted to all four- wheel drive cars competing on the event, was subjected to extremely demanding conditions, which intensified when the rain subsided on Saturday morning and there was no precipitation to clean away the surface dirt and debris," he reports. "But the tire passed the test with flying colors and was widely praised for the level of grip it offered, despite the treacherous nature of the bulk of the route, which covered 352.88 kilometers."

"For sure this is really special and it's incredible for me to win my seventh world title here in my home town," says Loeb. "It has been a very impressive rally but very difficult. There has been a lot of support and I really did not expect this. With Dani (Sordo) finishing second, Citroen has won the manufacturers' title and me my 60th world championship rally. Sure I led from the start, but the conditions never made it easy and I really had to concentrate. Fortunately my car and the tires were always very good and never let me down."

Jari-Matti Latvala, who produced arguably his best performance on asphalt by going fastest on three stages in his factory Ford Focus WRC and finishing fourth overall, notes that "the Pirelli tire worked extremely well in very bad conditions. It was so difficult with so much muck on the road but we never had a problem with grip, particularly under braking for the difficult corners it was always very good."

 

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Because of the slippery conditions, competitors opted to use the soft-compound version of the P Zero tire throughout the event. The compound type is designed to provide optimum road-holding in lower ambient temperatures and when the surface is damp and slippery.

"The mud, the rain and the cold temperatures made the conditions the most difficult we have ever experienced on a Tarmac rally," says Braga. "There was a lot of mud and small stones dragged onto the road and the stage surface, which was already very inconsistent, became even more difficult for the drivers. Fortunately the P Zero tire provided good grip and there was never any problem of wear when it stopped raining and the road began to dry," he recounts.

"There were quite a few problems of broken rims through drivers taking big ‘cuts' resulting in tires losing their air. But there were several cases when drivers came back to service with badly damaged rims but with all the air still in the tire. This demonstrates the strength of the sidewall construction we pioneered since we became the official tire supplier to the WRC in 2008," says Braga.

Paolo Andreucci, driving a Pirelli-equipped Peugeot Italia 207 Super 2000, can clinch the Italian Rally Championship for a fifth time at the Oct. 7-9 Rally Costa Smeralda.

The WRC heads next to Spain for an Oct. 21-24 event that will feature Pirelli's gravel-specification Scorpion tire and the P Zero asphalt edition.

For more information, visit www.us.pirelli.com.

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