And it’s with that number in mind that Pirelli looks back at its 11 decades in motorsport. The score doesn’t reflect the end result: there’s still plenty to learn and improve upon. But it’s a fair reflection of the enthusiasm and perseverance that have been a hallmark of the whole story. Race after race, disappointment after disappointment, win after win. And there have certainly been plenty of those victories to reflect upon.
From the 1907 Peking to Paris race – a 16,000-kilometre marathon on the limit of heroism – to today’s presence in Formula 1® and World Superbikes, there’s a long road marked out by Pirelli tyre tracks in motorsport. “We arrived in Paris first, only changing two wheels,” said a telegram sent from the French capital in August 1907 by Prince Scipione Borghese, after he won the Peking to Paris race at the wheel of a Pirelli-equipped Itala, reaching the Eiffel Tower with a colossal advantage over his rivals. For those days, on those roads, it was a veritable triumph. An exceptional achievement that first brought the public’s attention to the performance and safety of a product that would go on to become recognised the world over by the famous Pirelli logo. Since then, motorsport has changed beyond recognition, on both two and four wheels. Circuits that host thousands of races every year have grown up and developed all over the world. And Pirelli takes part in more than 2000 of those competitions each season.
This underlines the far-reaching realisation that Pirelli’s founder, Giovanni Battista Pirelli, came to at the end of the 19th century shortly after the company was established: competition is a vital technical tool to help develop everyday road products. The same philosophy remains unaltered to this day, with Pirelli acknowledging that motorsport still forms the best possible research and development laboratory for the products that we drive every day.
Bringing together this marriage of innovation and technology is Pirelli’s prestige division. The Italian tyre firm has always equipped dream bikes and cars, linking power and control in the most efficient way possible. After all, the former means nothing without the latter. The number of Pirelli homologations for the world’s most powerful and desirable cars and bikes increases each year at every international motor show. Today, thanks to Pirelli’s prestige division, this key message is right at the forefront of public consciousness for every motorsport enthusiast and keen driver. The huge amount of success achieved on circuits and stages all over the world is the calling card of products now proudly displayed in Pirelli’s P Zero World boutiques. The first one was born in Los Angeles and is now operational: others are set to follow all over the world.
To paraphrase a slogan that Pirelli has used for many years in bike racing, we sell what we race and race what we sell – to enthusiastic riders who can buy the same very same tyres for everyday use. Not only do these tyres help to provide pure riding pleasure, but they also unleash each bike’s best performance at maximum levels of safety.
Today we celebrate 110 years of Pirelli in motorsport at the national automobile museum in Turin, which tells the whole story of motoring from its very beginnings to the present day. The museum is also the proud custodian of the Itala that launched Pirelli’s motorsport history, which is displayed alongside contemporary cars and bikes that constitute the ultimate demonstration of modern technology – as well as of Pirelli’s constant need for speed and passion. The company takes part in every type of motorsport, on both two and four wheels: often at the very limit of performance. So the final score is 110 when it comes to passion and enthusiasm. And the plus stands for the goal that Pirelli follows at every race meeting: looking towards the future with the simple yet moving target of getting better and better.