Pirelli International Rally celebrates 21st anniversary

  The third round of the 2012 MSA British Rally Championship, the Pirelli International Rally, will mark the 21st anniversary of the rally run in collaboration with Italian tyre firm Pirelli: the official tyre supplier to Formula One.Pirelli's involvement with the Cumberland Sporting Car Club event dates back to the inception of the rally in 1976, when it started out as a local club event before becoming a round of the British Rally Championship. Over the years, the Pirelli International Rally has attracted a host of world-class drivers, with former winners including world champions Ari Vatanen and Colin McRae, while local hero Malcolm Wilson has won the event on four separate occasions. Set in the heart of Cumbria, this year’s Pirelli International Rally will challenge crews over 12 stages covering 95 competitive miles, with Saturday’s stages predominantly located in the Kielder forest: Europe’s largest man-made forest. Incorporated into this year’s event will be the international, historic, challenge and tour of Cumbria categories.Pirelli Star Driver, Jukka Korhonen, will be aiming for his best finish of the season in his TEG Sport prepared Skoda Fabia R2 at the weekend. Last year’s Pirelli International Rally marked Korhonen’s first international event, and the Finn stormed to a dominant class victory on his debut outing on British soil.“I think I’ve found a set-up and pace that I’m now comfortable with, and I’m feeling confident about the Pirelli Rally,” he said. “We managed to set some really good times last year and the stages are similar to those in Finland – very fast and flowing – which are well suited to my driving style. I’ll certainly be aiming for a podium, maybe even a victory, and hopefully come away with my best finish of the season so far.”With Citroen leading the battle of the manufacturers with 71 points, both Renault and Ford will be looking for a healthy points haul in order to overhaul the French manufacturer from the top of the leaderboard. Former Pirelli Star Driver, Elfyn Evans, will also be eager to post a strong result in order to pass current championship leader, Tom Cave, who lies only two points ahead in the drivers’ standings.Pirelli Tyre UK motorsport manager, Carl Naylor, said: “The Pirelli International Rally is a very special rally for us, but it is even more special this year as we celebrate our 21st anniversary as the main title sponsor. Pirelli started its official sponsorship of the rally in 1992, and I am pleased to say that the collaboration has helped the Pirelli International Rally grow into one of the most well established events on the British motorsport calendar.”Naylor added: “Last year’s event was when we first met Jukka [Korhonen], and he blew us away with his times, beating reigning WRC Academy champion Craig Breen by over 10 seconds. The nature of the stages will suit Jukka’s driving technique down to a tee, and it would be the icing on the cake for Jukka to finish on the podium on such a monumental occasion.”Pirelli has exclusively supplied the British Rally Championship with tyres since 2007. The K6 gravel tyre will again be supplied but the K4 tyre will also be available to competitors on the Pirelli Rally. Its tread blocks are designed to bite through mud and gain the maximum possible traction, both in a straight line and through corners, by rapidly dispersing surface gravel. The Pirelli International Rally will take place on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 April with the service park nce again based at Carlisle racecourse. This year, the racecourse will also play host to a rally village where iconic rally cars, track and drag-strip machines and a whole range of exotic cars will be among the attractions over the course of the weekend. The rally will also be represented in Carlisle’s city centre, not far from Pirelli’s Carlisle factory that employs in excess of 700 people.Viewers at home can keep up to date with all the action from Pirelli International Rally by tuning into Sky Sports' programme, British Rallyzone. Up to date listings can be found a week before the scheduled transmission time by visiting skysports.com/tv_guide.