14 Jan 08
Paul Howarth, operations director at the Subaru World Rally Team, answers some questions about the championship's switch to Pirelli tyres.
wrc.com: This year all WRC teams will use Pirelli's control tyres. How different are these to the Pirelli tyres Subaru used in 2006?
Paul Howarth: In Monte Carlo it's a bit of an unusual situation. We'll be using Pirelli's new tarmac control tyre for the first time on a rally, but as Monte Carlo is deemed a specialist event we'll also have the option of a Pirelli WX winter tyre - with and without studs - which we have used before. For the rest of the events it's usually more straightforward as there is just one tyre which we're not allowed to cut. Like all the other teams we've tested the new tyre and, yes, it is different to the ones we used in 2006. Apart from the lack of anti-deflation mousse, the tyre offers slightly less outright performance in specific conditions. Instead, it's a far more versatile tyre that has been designed for all types of surface, whether it's dry, wet or damp. The main difference we'll notice in Monte Carlo is the compound. Up to now we've been able to use a very soft compound in Monte, which is ideal if the roads are cold or wet. The new tyres have been developed with durability in mind, so the compound is harder, and the performance characteristics are different.
wrc.com: With the ban on anti-deflation mousse, how much are punctures likely to influence rally results in 2008,
Paul Howarth: First of all, cars are allowed to carry two spare wheels if teams wish, so crews will have sufficient tyres to cope with two punctures in a loop of stages. The tyre has been designed with the lack of anti-deflation mousse in mind, so it has a thicker carcass and sidewalls than before. We've seen testing on really rough gravel where there have been no punctures, so they are tough, but a lot will depend on tyre wear. We're only allowed one compound, so dependent on how rough the surface is and the rate of tyre wear, you may pick up punctures where rocks actually cut through the tread, if it is sufficiently worn. On asphalt rallies the biggest danger for a tyre is when drivers cut corners aggressively, but that can be avoided by changing driving style and not going quite so tight into cuts. It's a stylistic thing and those who adapt faster will gain an early advantage. It's important to remember though that it's the same for everybody, and it is a new challenge as everyone has to start from scratch.