Pirelli became the WRC’s exclusive tyre supplier from the beginning of 2021 when it began a four-year deal with the FIA. It was previously the sole supplier up to 2010, when its rubber carried Sébastien Loeb and Citroën to world titles.
But, whilst the Italian company already had a long and illustrious history in sport, preparations for 2021 were more complicated.
Developing a range of new tyres for gravel, asphalt, snow and ice is no mean feat. But, with help along the way from development driver Andreas Mikkelsen, Pirelli managed it. And managed it in the thick of a global pandemic.
“Honestly, I am very happy,” beamed Isola. “It is clear that the WRC has been in our DNA for many years, but it was more difficult this time.
“We know how fast the rate of development is for any motorsport product and when we had to develop new products for the WRC we were in the pandemic situation, which was basically blocking us from any activity for some time.
“We had no experience of [this generation of] World Rally Cars,” he continued, “we had just a few tests to adapt our products and the results were good, and we always react quickly if there is any fine-tuning that we need to make to our specification.
“The WRC is an opportunity to develop tyres for applications that we don’t usually see on a circuit: ice, snow and gravel. I am quite positive with our first year in the WRC, knowing that we can always improve and we are always committed to improving,” he added.
The 2022 season will bring yet another exciting challenge as new hybrid Rally1 cars will feature 100kW electric motors capable of putting out up to 514hp when combined with existing combustion engines.
Pirelli has previous knowledge of hybrid powertrains, albeit in Formula 1 and not in rallying. Isola accepted there would be a number of things to consider, adding that his team were looking forward to the new era.
“I am sure next year will be even better,” he said. “The WRC is growing and in the future they are planning to increase the number of events, so it’s very good for us to be part of it.
“We know that, on hybrid powertrains, the torque is different and we have to consider that. But I believe that we are ready to face this new challenge.
“The plan is to keep a continuous development of our product. The cars are going to change, the performance is going to improve, and we need to adapt our product to the future situation.”