Italian Rally Championship leader and official Pirelli test driver Paolo Andreucci is ready for a new challenge on the Costa Smeralda Rally next weekend: round three of the Italian series.

Andreucci, co-driven as usual by Anna Andreussi, will compete in his familiar Peugeot Italia 207 S2000, with which he won the Italian Championship on Pirelli tyres last year.

The 30th Costa Smeralda Rally is based in Olbia on the island of Sardinia, and follows directly behind the Rally d’Italia World Championship event on Friday 6 May and Saturday 7 May. This poses a brand new challenge for the Italian Championship crews, as they will compete on roads that have been affected by the passage of all the World Rally Championship competitors.

The Sardinian stages are characterised by soft and sandy gravel, which clean rapidly to reveal some sharp rocks and stones. This makes repeated runs through the stages particularly treacherous and a big test for Pirelli’s Scorpion tyres, which Andreucci along with the other Pirelli runners will use in Sardinia. Pirelli though has an excellent record in marginal conditions, with the puncture rate of the control tyres supplied to the World Rally Championship between 2008 and 2010 equivalent to less than 0.02%.

“It’s going to be an extremely difficult event, but I can’t wait to get started,” said Andreucci, the winner of the first two rounds of the Italian Championship this year: the Ciocco Rally and the Mille Miglia. “Costa Smeralda is going to be quite different to the other rallies we have done so far though. For a start it’s on gravel, but the gravel conditions are going to be harder than those that we normally face, as we are running five minutes behind the entire World Rally Championship field. This is bound to have a very big effect on the roads. The Costa Smeralda stages are normally much rougher the second time through anyway, but this year will probably be the biggest challenge that we and the Scorpion tyres have ever seen in Sardinia.”

Nonetheless, Andreucci has an enviable history in Sardinia with four victories there to his name, in 2001, 2006, 2008 and 2009: three of which were taken on Pirelli tyres. “Despite the tricky conditions, I’ve only ever had one puncture there with Pirelli and that was when we hit a rock flat-out in fourth gear two years ago; nothing could have stopped that,” added Andreucci. “That’s a great testimony to the strength and performance of the tyres: the Costa Smeralda Rally is certainly a place where you need both. In many ways it is more like an endurance event than a sprint, so we will be approaching it in a slightly different way to the other events as it’s hard to predict where all the rocks might be.”

Other leading Pirelli runners on the rally include Alessandro Perico, driving a similar Peugeot 207 S2000 to Andreucci. The Costa Smeralda Rally takes place over eight stages and comprises a total of 138.58 competitive kilometres.

Former winners of the prestigious Italian event include Markku Alen, Attilio Bettega, Henri Toivonen, Juha Kankkunen and Didier Auriol.
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