PARIS—Pirelli & C. S.p.A. has secured the contract to become the exclusive race tire supplier to the FIA World Rally Championship for four years, starting in 2021.
The deal covers both the World Rally Car (Rally1) and the R5 (Rally2) classes, including the WRC 2 and WRC 3 support championships, according to Federation International de l'Automobile, the sport's sanctioning body.
"Technology and passion are two key elements that Pirelli bring to motorsport, and these have allowed us to secure the single tire supply for the World Rally Championship," Giovanni Tronchetti Provera, Pirelli's senior vice president of prestige and motorsport, said. "We've supported young drivers in the Junior category for many years and now we're returning to the top class as well."
In its statement, Pirelli specified that the deal calls for it to supply all 4-wheel drive cars in the WRC and R5-specification WRC2 class, which is the headline category on regional and national championships throughout the world. The FIA did not address the issue of 2-wheel-drive versus 4-wheel-drive in its statement.
The deal will sideline Michelin from competing in a sport for which it has been the primary tire supplier since 2010, when the FIA opted to allow open tire competition for the WRC.
Established in 1973, the WRC pits drivers in production-based cars racing on a variety of surfaces, from public roads to snow-packed forest tracks to rock-strewn mountain passes. Each season consists of 13 to 15 rallies in a dozen or more countries around the world. There are 13 rallies scheduled for 2020: eight in Europe, three in the Americas and one each in Asia, Africa and New Zealand.
Pirelli has been present in rallying since 1973, claiming 25 world titles and equipping the winners of 181 events. Pirelli was sole supplier to the WRC from 2008 to 2010 and returned as a supplier in the 2013 through 2016 seasons.
"Our return to the top level of rallying is something that we were considering for a while," Mario Isola, Pirelli's head of F1 and car racing, said, "and it's particularly fitting that this appointment from the FIA comes in the year that Ott Taenak—a graduate of the Pirelli Star Driver program—was crowned world champion."
Michelin said its teams and drivers have claimed 54 world titles and 331 overall victories in the 46-plus years it has been active in WRC competition. Since the WRC went to an open tire competition format in 2010, Michelin-shod cars have won all but a few events.
After a break in 2017, the FIA said, Pirelli returned in 2018 and is the exclusive tire supplier for the Junior World Rally Championship.
Pirelli's appointment was approved by an FIA World Motor Sport Council e-vote the week of Dec. 16. Financial terms were not disclosed.
FIA Rally Director Yves Matton called Pirelli's appointment an "an exciting new phase in the development of the World Rally Championship. … I am convinced Pirelli will bring a wealth of experience to the program."
The deal complements Pirelli's status as the exclusive race tire supplier for the FIA's Formula 1, 2 and 3 Championships as well as to several F4 championships around the world as well as the GT World Challenge championships in Europe, Asia and North America.