Pirelli claims ERC titles in Latvia

Pirelli claims ERC titles in LatviaFrom Pirelli Press [ 18/09/2016 ].
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With one round to go, Pirelli has ensured a clean sweep of this year's FIA European Rally Championship titles: one of the oldest and most prestigious accolades in the sport, with the series having first been run back in 1953. Pirelli driver Kajetan Kajetanowicz successfully defended his European title, having led the championship since the Circuit of Ireland in March, securing his second ERC crown in succession thanks to fourth place on Rally Liepaja in Latvia.

Not only that, but the ERC Junior Championship - which has been exclusively supplied by Pirelli this year - concluded with Germany's Marijan Griebel lifting the title, following a tense battle with his Opel team-mate Chris Ingram from the United Kingdom.

This championship, which fits perfectly in line with Pirelli's philosophy of supporting young drivers, carries a prize drive in an R5 car on the season-closing Cyprus Rally next month, allowing the stars of the future to get their much-needed big break on the international stage. Pirelli has funded the prize drive, details of which will be announced shortly.

Not only that but the ERC2 title was also settled in Latvia: the next rung below the top class. Alexey Lukyanuk won the class on the rally - using Pirelli tyres - but it was Subaru Poland driver Wojciech Chuchala who was confirmed as the title winner, another Pirelli driver who took five wins from as many rallies at the start of the season.

The Pirelli drivers were able to rely on the renowned Scorpion K tyre throughout the rally, in both K4 medium and K6 soft compound. These tyres are particularly effective on fast gravel roads, thanks to a directional tread pattern that enhances handling. Because of the soft and sandy nature of the roads, the soft K6 compound was mostly used.

Kajetanowicz, after becoming the first Pirelli driver to defend his title in the ERC in more than 20 years, commented: "It's not been an easy year, but the help from Pirelli has been very important. We have known a few marginal situations where the tyres really made a big difference."

One of the highlights of the Rally Liepaja came from a driver who was not eligible for the ERC, but was instead competing on the national section of the rally: 15-year-old Kalle Rovanpera (the son of former WRC event winner Harri Rovanpera).

Despite the fact that he is so young that he is not even allowed to drive on the road sections - which are completed by his co-driver - the teenager set times that were equal to or faster than those of the overall rally winner: one of the reasons why Rovanpera is currently leading the Latvian championship. The young Finn, who picked up the ERC Colin McRae Flat Out Trophy, uses Pirelli tyres on his Skoda Fabia R5: his father Harri also drove with Pirelli in the world championship 10 years ago, taking a podium on his very last rally.

Pirelli's rally activity manager Terenzio Testoni said: "Congratulations to Kajto and his co-driver Jarek Baran for another well-deserved European title. Throughout the season, their Pirelli tyres have made a big difference on both gravel and asphalt: the result of which being that they have led the championship since the beginning of the year. One of our major missions is to support young drivers, which is why we are delighted to award the prize drive to Marijan Griebel, who fought so hard to win the ERC Junior championship, and to be associated with Kalle Rovanpera. To see a 15-year-old leading the Latvian championship, setting times comparable with the overall rally winner, and being rewarded for his efforts with the Colin McRae Trophy, is truly a remarkable achievement."

The next and final round of the 2016 ERC season is the Cyprus Rally, which uses a combination of asphalt and gravel stages, from October 7-9.