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JUNE 1, 1991

Pirelli's Dario Calsavara tells all


The Canadian Grand Prix was a spectacular event, with an exciting and totally unexpected result. The race had been dominated from the start by Nigel Mansell in his rapid Williams-Renault FW14. Halfway round the final lap, as Nigel was waving to crowds -- delighted with his seemingly unstoppable victory -- his car died beneath him, trickling to a halt less than a mile from the chequered flag. It was bitter luck for Mansell.

But if Mansell was in despair, Nelson Piquet was beside himself with joy as his Benetton cruised past the stationary Williams. Nelson was on his way to his third victory in seven Grands Prix.

There was rejoicing in the Benetton pit, but out in the back of the paddock there was rejoicing elsewhere too, for Piquet's car had been fitted with Pirelli tyres. And to make i a truly fantastic afternoon for the men at Pirelli, Stefano Modena's Tyrrell had slipped through to take second place. It was a Pirelli 1-2 finish.

It was a lucky result, no doubt about it, but to win you must finish and Piquet and Modena and had done just that. For the first time in five years, Pirelli had won a Grand Prix.

Dario Calzavara is the head of Pirelli's Formula 1 programme. He is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the 80 people involved in the Italian company's Grand Prix challenge: from the mathematicians, to the chemists and tyre fitters, he keeps an eye on everything from the company's racing headquarters in the northern suburbs of Milan.

Calzavara is a realist and is happy to accept that victory in Canada was lucky. But he also knows that a win is a win -- no matter how it happens. People forget the losers

'Yes, obviously in Canada we had a bit of help from Williams,' he smiles, 'but, whatever the case, Nelson was running very competitively. He was keeping up with all the others cars at the front during the race.

'When you are competitive and you have the product right, you are in the right position to take advantage of the circumstances -- that's what we did.

'Obviously for our morale it was very good to finish first and second. It was a pity that Stefano Modena made the wrong choice of tyres -- or rather that the Tyrrell team made the wrong choice -- because otherwise Stefano would have been with Piquet throughout the race -- not just in the last part when he found the right tyre choice.

'But, no matter, it has given us even more motivation than before to try to win races.'

The recent years have been a very lean time for Pirelli. The company's last victory in F1 was in Mexico City in October 1986, when Gerhard Berger, driving a Benetton-BMW, ran through the entire race without a tyre stop, surprising the Goodyear runners and winning as he pleased.

But by that point it was already too late, for Pirelli had decided before Mexico that it would finish the season and then pull out of F1, leaving Goodyear to enjoy a monopoly of supply to all the teams.

It was not until the beginning of 1989 that Pirelli came back to F1. It was a low-key programme, slipping uietly in, supplying midfield teams.

'This year was the first time since we came back that we had a car to win races,' says Calzavara. 'We have had five races and we have won.'

Goodyear have long argued that if a tyre company wishes to enter F1, it should be willing to supply its fair share of teams. FISA did not agree and nor did Pirelli.

While Goodyear supplies the majority of the field, trying not to show any favouritism and keen to ensure that everyone receives the same tyres., Pirelli's policy has been to supply just a handful of teams and offer a more specialised service. This has met with criticism from Goodyear.

'We have two top teams -- two development teams: Benetton and Tyrrell,' explains Calzavara. 'And then we have two other minor teams: Scuderia Italia and Brabham. We work together with Tyrrell and Benetton to improve the quality and the performance of our products. Benetton and Tyrrell have more potential, engineering and organisational capacity and the drivers. For us it is quite obvious to take this step.

'As soon as this product is available we give it to the others. That's very clear.'

Perhaps the success in Canada will lead to an increase in supply to other teams?

'Well, in terms of quantity, we will stay as we are,' explains Dario, 'but maybe next year we will take on another team. Nothing is decided yet.

'In terms of quality we are increasing it every day, and especially now that we are very close to being in a situation where we can prove to the general public that our products are better than those of Goodyear -- despite the fact that we do not have the best cars and drivers.'

Clearly, for Calzavara, the promotion of the product and the improvement of the Pirelli image is the aim. This after all is why the Italians are in F1. They have no philanthrophic of sporting aims. This is hard-nosed business. If you win races, you sell tyres. Making mony is what it is all about.

At the moment F1 does not have a tyre war. The fight between Goodyear and Pirelli s like a pair of pussycats mauling each other. But what would happen if another manufacturer decided to come into Grand Prix racing?

'Every time I talk to Goodyear's Leo Mehl,' says Calzavara, 'I always say that Bridgestone is ready. I think Bridgestone is much better prepared than many people think. Goodyear is reluctant to believe that.

'I don't have any specific information about Bridgestone, but I know that sooner or later a third tyre manufacturer will come to F1.

'I think at the moment everybody is watching Pirelli very closely to see how we are doing against Goodyear. Now we have proved to them that we had a lot of courage to start an F1 operation without a team like McLaren, Ferrari or Williams. Now we are successful I think that will boost the interest from both Bridgestone and Michelin. I think they might both enter F1.'

But what about a top team like Ferrari, McLaren or Williams, wouldn't Pireli like to supply a regular winner? Clearly the mood last year was to try and sign a deal with Ferrari. Last year the famous Italian team held a secret tyre test at Fiorano, to see how good Pirelli tyres were. Pirelli has been searching for a top team. Would that be the ultimate situation from Pirelli's point of view?

'No. We are not particularly interested in Ferrari. We are interested in winning races. We want to prove that we are the best tyre producer in the world. That is the key point.

'Pirelli is a very multi-national international company, the most international of all Italian companies and we are looking at the very old international markets. It is much more important for us to sell tyres in Japan for example it is to sell in the Italian market. If one day Ferrrai needs Pirelli tyres, we will consider it, but right now we are very happy as we are...<\#026>