Since the beginning of the 1900s, Pirelli has also had an important role in motorcycle racing, with Tazio Nuvolari included among its riders. In the Thirties, the Guzzi, Gilera and Bianchi bikes were all fitted with Pirelli Motocord. It was with this tyre – between 1937 and 1939 – that riders like Taruffi, Alberti, Vanni and Sandri, on the Guzzi 250 and the Gilera 500, established one speed record after another. The Second World War brought the races to a halt, and they were only started again towards the end of the 1940s, with victories again by the Guzzi and Gilera motorcycles. In 1948, the Bisiluri bike with Gilera 500 engine established no less than 31 speed records reaching 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour while fitted with Pirelli tyres.
The 1950s: four F1 world titles with Alfa Romeo and Ferrari With the Alfa Romeo 158 and 159, Pirelli obtained two F1 world titles, thanks to Nino Farina from Turin and Argentina’s Juan-Manuel Fangio, and in 1952 Pirelli achieved victory with Alberto Ascari's 4-cylinder Ferrari 500 in the F1 World Championship (six wins out of six, in the races in which he took part.)
In 1954 Pirelli fitted Ferrari for the Le Mans 24 Hours, winning with Trintignant and Gonzalez driving the 375 MM Plus. The Milan-based company continued developing increasingly more competitive high-performance tyres, for the most diverse races: from the Carrera Panamericana to the Mille Miglia, from the Grand Prix to endurance tests like the Sebring 12 Hours, won in 1957 by Behra-Fangio’s Maserati 450S. In 1957, Pirelli suspended its activity in Formula 1.
In the 1970s important changes were taking place in the motorcycle industry. Segmentation was created, with bikes separated by use: cross-country, enduro and off- road raids got underway, and Pirelli confirmed its commitment to motorcycle racing winning favour with teams and riders in the different segments.
Pirelli’s experience in rallying began in the 1970s and has continued without interruption for more than three decades, during which it has won 150 titles: from the 1973 Poland Rally won by Warmbold-Todt’s Fiat Abarth 124 to the 2005 Rally in England won by Solberg-Mills’ Subaru Impreza WRC. Going on to Markku Alen’s victory with the Lancia Rally 037 in the 1984 Tour de Corse, and Sandro Munari’s successes with the Lancia Stratos at the Montecarlo Rally (from 1975 to 1977) and Stig Blomqvist’s victory at the 1983 Sanremo, up to Pirelli’s hundredth victory in world rallies with Burns-Reid’s Subaru Impreza WRC (1997). Winning Italian drivers have included Franco Cunico, first at Sanremo with the Ford Escort Cosworth in 1993 and Piero Liatti, first with the Subaru Impreza, with Pirelli P Zero tyres. Among Pirelli’s more recent rally victories, in addition to those in WRC, the 2010 victory in Montecarlo where Ford swept to victory with the only car in the race officially fitted with Pirelli tyres should be noted.
The 1980s: Pirelli takes command in the various championships In the 1980s, after its successes in the endurance races of Formula 2, Pirelli returned to Formula 1. In these years, the company made history with the Pirelli P7 radial, the most evolved racing tyre developed by Pirelli technicians to date.
Pirelli P7 tyres were fitted on the Osella-BMW which Eddie Cheever drove to success in the first race of the European F2 Championship at Silverstone in 1980. The following year Pirelli won the European title with the Toleman, and went back to Formula 1. The return was with the British team’s single seater racing cars. Pirelli’s F1 tyres were later adopted