Pirelli finesses final fitments for first-place finish in Finland

Jan. 1, 2020
Although there is some debate about its exact meaning, the Finnish word ?sisu? loosely translates into English as ?having guts.? On the flat-out straights and blind crests of the July 29-31 Rally Finland, drivers will need plenty of sisu if they are

Although there is some debate about its exact meaning, the Finnish word “sisu” loosely translates into English as “having guts.” On the flat-out straights and blind crests of the July 29-31 Rally Finland, drivers will need plenty of sisu if they are to stand a chance of winning one of the World Rally Championship’s most iconic events, according to Pirelli senior tire engineer Matteo Braga.

Retired two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm, one of eight different drivers to have won in Finland using Pirelli’s tires, observes that “to tackle Rally Finland you need courage, but you need to know where the road is fast and where it is fastest. The rally is a series of twists, corners and jumps. The pace notes have to be perfect because they tell you where to place the car on the road before taking off flat-out over a blind crest. You have to have maximum trust and faith in your co-driver.”

The challenge of competing in the Rally Finland is not lost on 2007 Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen either. The Citroen Junior Team driver will be tackling the race for a second time; he spent two days this week doing some rugged road testing near the city of Jyvaskyla, where the event is based.

“Rally Finland is all about having good pace notes, an accurate setup and everything being right with the car, including the tires,” says Raikkonen. “We used a variety of roads during the test so we experienced all the different types of road we’ll have on the rally because they’re not always smooth and can be bumpy in places. I never had a home Grand Prix when I was in Formula One so it is nice to have a home rally now (that) I am in the WRC.”

Raikkonen used the test to sample the Pirelli Scorpion soft compound tire, which will be provided to all the crews using four-wheel drive vehicles under the company’s three-year agreement as the WRC’s official tire supplier.

Braga explains why the soft-compound Scorpion has been chosen for the event: “The gravel in Finland is compact, but it’s also soft and smooth and not like the hard and abrasive gravel we found in Turkey and Portugal, for example, so the soft-compound tire is the best option for this rally.”

 

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He point out that “although it is usually warm and sunny in Finland, it is a tradition that there is some rain, and the soft-compound tire works very well in these conditions. We have seen in the last two years the tire was very good in Finland and we have no worries at all that we’ll enjoy good performance and good durability on this event.”

Raikkonen is not the only star name in action for Rally Finland’s 60th anniversary race. Juha Kankkunen, who won the WRC crown on four occasions and secured Pirelli’s 10th victory in Finland when he triumphed at the event in 1999, will be coming out of retirement to drive a Pirelli-shod Ford Focus RS WRC 08, run by the British M-Sport team.

“It’s going to be great to drive again,” says the 51-year-old Kankkunen. “I haven’t spent much time in the latest generation World Rally Cars, but knowing they’ll disappear from the WRC after this season, this is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy one. The target is a place in the Top 10 and to do battle with Kimi Raikkonen.”

Rally Finland is the third event of the season for the Pirelli Star Driver program, a joint initiative between Pirelli and the FIA. It gives the opportunity for five promising young talents, Nick Georgiou, Peter Horsey, Hayden Paddon, Alex Raschi and Ott Tanak, to contest six rounds of the World Rally Championship in identical Pirelli-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Xs.

“I did the event last season and the roads are really fast and quite similar to those I know from back home in Estonia,” says Tanak. “I have learned so much already in the Pirelli Star Driver program this year so I have to make the finish to learn more.”

Along with being round eight of the main WRC, Rally Finland is also round five of the Production Car World Rally Championship for two-liter turbocharged Group N cars, and round six of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship, which uses normally aspirated two-liter cars. Pirelli supplies its soft-compound Scorpions to both support the championships and to highlight “the performance and efficiency” of its tires on a wide range of racers.

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

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