There was thought to be assurance that Pirelli would remain in the WRC after its announcement regarding Formula 1 was made. We thought that the Italian manufacturer would support both FiA series and that multiple suppliers would also be in the mix (for rally). That has not proven to be the case as Pirelli has pulled out as a supplier to the WRC.
This particular decision is not as huge as when Bridgestone pulled out of F1 however, because the regulations already indicated that multiple suppliers would be allowed in the series to help take strain off Pirelli. Michelin has already expressed an interest in supplying the series and some think that Pirelli’s decision comes from threat of competition. The Italian firm on the other hand says the pullout has to do with changing regulations and the way the FiA handled themselves in late 2009.
December of 2009 saw a three year tender offered to the FiA to be sole supplier. The FiA rejected the proposal and offered a counter of a one year extension at the same terms currently offered. That was then changed to a one year extension at one year terms. As confusing as they may seem, Pirelli was not happy with it and turned their backs to the rally side in order to focus on the Formula 1 aspect. Other rules regulations also had a part to play as we move into the S2000T cars next year with further changes possible for 2012.
All in all the decision is not a crushing blow to the series momentum. There is a negative aspect to it however. The Pirelli Star Driver program will now disappear. This program would allow for five young drivers to get behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evolution Group N car and compete in the WRC. It is tough anytime when you lose a feeder or development program. My hope is that any company that fills Pirelli’s position opens up a similar program so as young rally talent can continue to shine.