Pirelli’s Long History in Rallying

Pirelli returns to the World Rally Championship this year but the Italian firm’s presence in the series goes right back to the inaugural season in 1973, when Achim Warmbold won Rally Poland with its tyres fitted to his Fiat Abarth 124.

 

The world title was reserved for manufacturers only in the early years, and Lancia claimed a hat-trick of championships between 1974 and 1976 with Pirelli tyres fitted to its incredible Stratos. Also notable were the three consecutive Rallye Monte-Carlo wins scored by Sandro Munari aboard the same car.

Munari went on to win the first drivers’ title that was awarded in 1977 – the FIA Cup for Rally Drivers. He was succeeded the following season by another driver on Pirelli tyres – Markku Alen in the Fiat 131 Abarth. In 1980, Walter Rohrl became world champion also with the two Italian brands. Ari Vatanen then became the first and only driver to win the world title as a privateer with Pirelli tyres fitted to his Ford Escort in 1981.

In the Group B era, Pirelli equipped the Lancia 037 that won the manufacturers’ title in 1983, as well as the Delta S4 model that followed. It was then a Pirelli-shod Lancia that won the first titles of the Group A era in 1987 with Juha Kankkunen.

After that, Pirelli tyres were fitted to the first Japanese car to win the WRC: the Toyota Celica of Carlos Sainz in 1990 and 1992. Another iconic Japanese rally car, the Subaru Impreza, was later driven to drivers’ titles by Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg – all with Pirelli tyres.

Pirelli went on to become the exclusive supplier of the WRC between 2008 and 2010 (when Sébastien Loeb added to his ultimate tally of nine world titles) and resumes that relationship in 2020.

To mark its return to the WRC at Rallye Monte-Carlo this week Pirelli has released a video, available to watch on YouTube, that highlights many of these key dates from throughout its rallying history.

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