Rallying round the world

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Katsuta stuns Sweden with his Sottozero studs
Rally Sweden is one of the most specialised events in the World Rally Championship, with winter conditions that require a dedicated snow tyre, and where local experts are particularly tough to beat. But Takamoto Katsuta, a young Japanese driver part of Toyota’s junior programme, did just that to win WRC2 this year. Pirelli’s latest generation Sottozero tyres were a key part of his success, with their long studs locked into the tread and designed to bite through the snow and ice. Cars equipped with Sottozero were fastest in the R5 category on 13 of the 19 stages. But even with the best tools for the job, Katsuta still impressed with his speed and his consistency under huge pressure from Sweden’s defending WRC2 champion and factory driver Pontus Tidemand. 

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Bergkvist gets the Junior WRC crown in Turkey
A strong field of up-and-coming drivers from around the world assembled for this year’s Junior World Rally Championship as Pirelli returned as exclusive tyre supplier, and a close title fight ensued that went right down the wire. Swedes Denis Radstrom and Emil Bergkvist enjoyed a thrilling fight on home ground, before being joined in the fight by Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Franceschi, who won in Corsica, and Estonia’s Ken Torn, who matched his mentor Ott Tanak’s Finland triumph. A new-look Rally Turkey provided a gruelling finale, with Bergkvist coming out on top to crown a consistent season in perfect fashion. He wins a Ford Fiesta R5 and tyre and fuel package to use in WRC2 next season.

Andreucci turns it up to 11
The partnership of Pirelli, Peugeot and Paolo Andreucci continues to set records in Italy. In 2018, they won their eighth Italian Rally Championship together, and for Andreucci it was his 11th title, and his 10th using Pirelli tyres. A run of four consecutive victories began the year in perfect fashion for Andreucci, with a second-place finish on the last round enough to seal the prize. Other major national titles to go to Pirelli in 2018 included the British championship with Matt Edwards and Finland with Eerik Pietarinen.

Lukyanuk leads an ERC clean sweep
Pirelli dominated the European Rally Championship again in 2018. As Kajetan Kajetanowicz moved on to WRC2 following his three consecutive European titles, his former rival Alexey Lukyanuk kept Pirelli on top. The rapid Russian paired his undoubted speed with a wiser approach to win three rallies across both gravel and asphalt on his way to the championship. Pirelli also won the ERC Junior U28 title with Nikolay Gryazin and ERC2 with Tibor Erdi Jr, while Martins Sesks won the single-supply ERC Junior U27 class.

New Junior WRC car revealed
Next year’s Junior WRC contenders will have a brand new car to play with. Designed and developed by M-Sport at its facility in Poland, the brand new Ford Fiesta R2T is the baby brother of the car that Sebastien Ogier has used to win his last two titles. It represents a huge step forward from its predecessor, with the engine, transmission and suspension all being improved significantly. A fleet of identical cars will be run for the JWRC drivers, all fitted with Pirelli tyres. The aim is to provide the perfect platform for the rally champions of the future to showcase their talent.

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Faggioli on top of the world
So the famed Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado may not exactly be a rally. But all the greatest rally drivers in the world have taken part in it: Sebastien Loeb, Michele Mouton and Ari Vatanen, to name just three. Now multiple hillclimb champion Simone Faggioli has written his name into the history books there as well, by breaking the rear-wheel drive record at the ‘Race to the Clouds’, using Pirelli’s new P Zero hillclimb tyres. His time of 8m37.230s was also the fastest combustion engine time this year – beaten only by Volkswagen’s ground-breaking electric car, which is unaffected by altitude. 

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