Typically, the chance to see the World Rally Championship compete in full snow and ice conditions only comes around once a year – but watching the cars travelling flat-out through such wintery surroundings is one of the most impressive and spectacular sights of any season. And it’s all made possible thanks to some very special tyres.
The WRC’s annual snow date on Rally Sweden has one of the highest average speeds of the year – and its replacement for the 2021 season, Arctic Rally Finland, could be even faster. And colder. That is despite the fact that it would be difficult to walk on such slippery surfaces without falling over.
Key to the spectacle is the use of studded tyres made specially for rallying on snow and ice, which bite into the surface to provide incredible levels of grip. For its return to the top level of the WRC in 2021, Pirelli has developed the Sottozero Ice J1 tyre, featuring close to 400 studs – each one protruding a maximum of seven millimetres out from the tread.
When the stages have a smooth and thick layer of ice, those seven millimetres give the drivers superior grip to what they can experience on gravel or even on asphalt, helping them to achieve speeds of up to 200kph.