Rally Japan set to draw a crowd of racers running on Pirelli tires

Jan. 1, 2020
Sebastien Loeb is in the running for his seventh consecutive World Rally Championship (WRC) title at this weekend's Rally Japan, providing he posts a win and his closest rivals finish outside of the top seven.
Sebastien Loeb is in the running for his seventh consecutive World Rally Championship (WRC) title at this weekend's Rally Japan, providing he posts a win and his closest rivals finish outside of the top seven.

The round 10 race of the series is being held in Sapporo, located on the northerly island of Hokkaido.

Citroen pilot Loeb looks to drive for the title rather than gun for his sixth win of the campaign, according to Pirelli senior WRC tire engineer Matteo Braga.

Ford's Mikko Hirvonen will be a firm favorite to bag his ninth victory at the world championship level using Pirelli tires, which are supplied as standard to the WRC under a three-year sponsorship agreement.

"I want to finish the season as well as I can so for sure I will try everything to win Rally Japan," says Hirvonen, who hails from Finland. "The world championship title is not possible (for me) anymore, but with four rallies to go there are two events where I really think I can challenge for the victory, starting with Japan. While it is over for me for the drivers' title, Ford can still win the manufacturers' title and to do that getting wins is vitally important."



Hirvonen has triumphed on the WRC's last two visits to Japan, taking victory in 2007 and 2008. "It's a rally I really like," Hirvonen observes. "It's similar to Finland, Great Britain and Australia in that you have fast and flowing stages through forests. But it's so unique in other ways because of the culture and the incredible history. Rallying might not be known in the whole country, but the fans that come to the event are so fanatical and enthusiastic. For drivers it makes it very enjoyable and gives you a good feeling."

Rally Japan first joined the world championship in 2004 when Petter Solberg swept to victory in a Subaru Impreza WRC using Pirelli tires. Marcus Gronholm drove a Peugeot 307 WRC and made it two wins out of two for Pirelli the following season before Hirvonen added a third victory in 2008.

Pirelli will supply its soft compound Scorpion gravel tire to the 55 crews taking part in four-wheel drive vehicles. The compound is designed to provide increased grip in cooler temperatures and in damp conditions, which have been a factor in the event in the past.

Priority 1 and 2 drivers will receive an allowance of 30 Scorpion tires plus six for the pre-event shakedown, while other crews in four-wheel drive cars get 20 Scorpion tires for the rally and five for the shakedown. The tires were transported by ship from Italy to Japan during the summer.

"Rally Japan is not one of the most demanding on tires because the surface is not abrasive like on some other gravel rallies," says Braga. "Cold temperatures and rain are always a possibility in Japan, and with rain you can get some mud, and it's possible some ruts can form," he explains.



"There can also be a problem of rocks being pulled onto the road for the second pass," adds Braga, "which creates a risk of tire damage because wheel rims can get broken, but it is not a big risk."

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

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