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WRC NEWS 

Pirelli confirms WRC exit

Pirelli logoPirelli has elected to turn its back on the World Rally Championship next year in a move that will see it concentrate its efforts on Formula 1, AUTOSPORT has learned.

The Italian tyre company won the battle to secure the supply deal for F1 next year, and it has already begun testing its rubber on a Toyota TF109.

Despite its return to F1, Pirelli had been expected to remain in the World Rally Championship.

However, AUTOSPORT has learned that it did not submit an application to the FIA to supply tyres to the WRC in 2011 before last night's deadline, citing the lack of rule stability in the series as the reason for its withdrawal.

Pirelli has supplied the WRC with a control tyre for the last three years in an 11.5m investment with the sport's governing body, the FIA.

For next season, however, Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery says the firm will focus its attentions on Formula 1.

"The first point to make here is the way the rules have been changed," Hembery told AUTOSPORT. "There have been three significant rule changes in the last nine months - and, possibly, an even more significant change coming in 2012.

"In December we tendered for another three-year deal to supply tyres for WRC. Once again, our tender was set out to provide finance for continued investment in the FIA, in the sport's promoter and, of course in the Pirelli Star Driver scheme which we financed from its inception in 2008.

"That three-year tender was rejected and we were offered a one-year extension on the same terms as the current three-year deal, then a one-year deal on the new tender conditions - that was something we felt was unacceptable.

"And now we come to the current regulation, which we feel is neither a control tyre scenario or competition. And, based on the experiences we have had in GT racing, where regulations similar to those in the WRC were open to interpretation and were flexible if a [tyre] manufacturer was having some difficulties. We explained those issues [to the FIA] and we have had no significant response. These rules leave a lot to be desired and we have communicated these limitations to the FIA.

"Overall it just feels that we were not wanted in the sport despite delivering run-flat technology, a Tarmac-specification tyre [which is] fully EEC road homologated, an offer to bring self-sealing, puncture-resistance to the sport, aromatic oil-free tyres and, of course, a level puncture resistance that was unheard of before 2008. We leave the sport with our head held high, having supported the series through some of the most difficult economic conditions ever experienced."

Hembery said Pirelli would continue to be involved in rallying, adding: "We have always been involved in the sport and we will continue to do so. We will remain in national championships and we will also look at the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, where we can have proper competition.

"We won the Monte Carlo Rally, the opening IRC round, this season with one car against a rival with many cars so we know we can be competitive."

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