Pirelli Star Driver program begins season at Rally of Turkey
The rally has moved 435 miles north from its previous location on the Mediterranean coastal resort of Kemer in the south of the country to Istanbul – Turkey’s largest city and the fifth most populated city in the world.
Even as Istanbul is the bridge between Europe and Asia, the all-gravel stages of the rally are in Asia. They are made up of fast and flowing gravel, with a wide variety of speeds and corners. In character, the roads are not quite as tight and technical as the stages in the south, with higher average speeds than seen previously. The one thing that is likely to remain entirely Turkish, despite the shift to a new location, will be the weather – which will be hot.
Istanbul has been chosen as the 2010 European Capital of Culture and the start of the rally will take place in the historic Sultanahmet Square, next to the famous Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sophia.
There are 23 gravel special stages, consisting of 222.97 competitive miles. On Friday evening, there will be a 1.24 mile superspecial in Istanbul, which is bound to be a highlight of the event.
Pirelli begins its third season as the official tire supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2010 intent on maintaining its long-held reputation for performance and durability. Pirelli has amassed 170 wins at the WRC level, securing 13 world manufacturers’ titles and 10 world drivers’ championship crowns, including helping Sébastien Loeb to the last two of his six honors.
In 2007, the FIA, the governing body of world motorsport, awarded Pirelli a three-year contract to supply tires exclusively to cars contesting WRC events from 2008-2010.
As well as specifying a single tire supplier, the FIA imposed a limit of two compounds for tires used on gravel and asphalt. Furthermore, the use of anti-deflation devices was also outlawed, which placed a huge onus on durability – and took the competition product closer than ever to the road car market.
As part of its ongoing commitment to the WRC, Pirelli is continuing the Star Driver scheme, designed in association with the FIA to unearth future driving talent from around the world by providing five lucky candidates with a fully funded drive on six rounds of the WRC.
“(Pirelli’s Star Driver Program) is an absolutely vital part of our strategy and also integral to our core values of giving young drivers a helping hand in the sport,” said Paul Hembry, Pirelli’s Director of Motorsport. “Unlike circuit racing, rallying does not have a real structure in place to help young drivers climb to the pinnacle of the sport, and the Pirelli Star Driver scheme goes some way towards filling that gap. For many years, even the most talented drivers from the FIA regional championships had nowhere to turn if they wanted to make the step up into the World Rally Championship, and recent economic conditions have made finding sponsorship harder than ever. With the Pirelli Star Driver program, we’re giving young drivers a helping hand just when they need it most.”