Pirelli boss set for gravel rally debut
Pirelli's motorsport manager Mario Isola will make his gravel rallying debut on this week's Rally Mexico. Isola will drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX as part of the Italian team competing in the Rally of Nation's element of the Leon-based event.
The Rally of Nations is a project the organizers are running to maintain interest in the event in its rotational year out of the World Rally Championship. Isola will be joined in Pirelli Team Italia by Stefano Marrini.
Isola said: "This is a great opportunity for me to take the place of the drivers and feel what they feel in the stages. It's also a great chance for me to have some fun."
Isola has previously competed in karting and in some saloon car races in Italy. Last year he tackled his first rally on asphalt and this week's Rally Mexico will be his first time on gravel.
"I don't know too much about what to expect," he said. "I have done some ice driving before, which gives me idea about how to use the weight of the car while you are sliding – I think ice is a little bit similar to gravel, isn't it?"
Asked how he expected to get on, he replied: "Put it this way: I don't think I'm going to win!"
Isola will find himself up against the likes of former world champion Didier Auriol (France) and a strong Finnish line-up including Harri Rovanpera and Toni Gardemeister.
The event came close to becoming a victim of swine flu, when the government ruled the organisers had to stop it, meaning the competition cars shipped from Europe were stuck in customs for some time - they were expected to be released this morning. The event is now 100 per cent confirmed to run and starts on Thursday evening.