A new challenge for BFGoodrich: Ninth Dakar win
The Dakar epitomises the spirit of adventure, dynamism, passion, effort and courage which are all values that BFGoodrich shares. Since its creation in 1870, the brand boasts a long tradition of innovation and bold challenges, including the first tubeless tyre, then the launch of the first radial tyre in the USA. BFGoodrich has also partnered some extraordinary adventures, such as the first coast-to-coast crossing of the USA by car at the beginning of the 20th Century and the first trans-Atlantic flight with Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of Saint Louis.
January 2009 sees BFGoodrich take on another exceptional challenge with its partners in the wide, open spaces of South America, from Patagonia and the Andes Mountains to the Atacama Desert. BFGoodrich will be targeting its ninth win on the first Dakar to take place on the American continent.
- Frederic Henry-Biabaud, BFGoodrich Competition Director
EN ROUTE FOR THE NEW WORLD WITH BFGOODRICH
Having forged its reputation over the past 30 years on African soil, the Dakar crosses the Atlantic this year for the first edition to take place in South America. BFGoodrich -- crosscountry rallying's benchmark tyre brand, with a score of eight Dakar wins and 11 FIA Cross- Country Rally World Cup titles to its name -- is naturally still a partner of the event as it ventures onto new territory.
The total length of the 2009 Dakar is 9,574km, including 5,652km divided into 14 stages, and competitors will cover a minimum of 500km every day! From the start in Buenos Aires, the convoy will strike south towards the vast expanses of the Argentine Pampas. The programme of the first week includes frequent off-road action, followed by the prospect of crossing the Andes prior to the rest day in Valparaiso, Chile. The second week will take competitors north via three legs in the Atacama Desert, said to be the driest in he world, while the finish is scheduled for January 18 in Buenos Aires.
"The new look Dakar will be an interesting challenge for BFGoodrich because the route is so varied," says BFGoodrich rally-raid tyre technician Dominique Bravy. "Instead of the camel grass of former Dakars, we will find pampas grass, the dry river beds will be known as rios instead of oueds and the equivalent to fesh-fesh sand will be the guadal, but the terrain will be every bit as challenging as it was in Africa, with some huge dunes to cross in the Atacama Desert."
TWO TYRES FOR THE DAKAR: HE ROCK T/A AND THE ALL TERRAIN
With a score of eight Dakar wins to its name, BFGoodrich is the benchmark tyre brand when it comes to cross-country rallies. This year, the firm has broadened its range with the availability of the new All Terrain alongside the Rock T/A.
The newcomer's design and development began practically two years ago in response to the way the discipline has been evolving. "The top rally-raid prototypes have become increasingly competitive and the pace of today's events is faster than ever, so the tyres must be capable of coping with even bigger constraints," explains BFGoodrich developer Michel Maraval.
Not only do today's cars reach speeds of up to 200kph but they also tip the scales at more than two tonnes and the stages themselves take in many hundred kilometres of rough and/or sandy tracks, so the life of a rally-raid tyre is no stroll: on landing after certain jumps, they must be capable of soaking up impacts of up to 3.5 tonnes!
"We started from a clean sheet in the case of the All-Terrain," continues Michel Maraval. "We developed a brand new construction and tread pattern, while the chemists worked on a new compound. The new tyre is wider than the other products in our cross-country range and stronger over sandy surfaces."
Following the initial design and development of the prototype tyre, the next phase was to put it through its paces on the terrain. "This is a long job, since validating a new rally-raid tyre calls for several thousands of kilometres of testing," points out BFGoodrich rally-raid tyre technician Dominique Bravy. "In addition to the different test sessions organised in association with our factory team partners, we also profited from selected Dakar Series and FIA World Cup events to evaluate the All-Terrain in a competitive environment and collect further valuable information." The All-Terrain covered more than 10,000km in total in the course of 2008.
With six Dakar wins to its credit, plus many more victories in other cross-country events, the BFGoodrich Rock T/A is a tried and tested product. It is robust and versatile and has been successful on all the different types of terrain it has encountered. "In fact, our range features two very competitive and complementary tyres," indicates Michel Maraval. "The Rock T/A is particularly at home on ground with a loose top surface and in mud, while the All-Terrain was developed for harder-wearing territory and sand. Today, the big unknown we and our partners face is what sort of conditions and weather we will come across in South America in January. Showers cannot be ruled out. Depending on the weather forecasts, the vehicle setup (suspension, etc.) and team strategy, our partners will choose either the Rock T/A or the All-Terrain at scrutineering before the start in Buenos Aires, the 2nd of January."
THE ROLE OF TYRES IN CROSS-COUNTRY RALLYING
As in all forms of motor sport, tyres are a major parameter. In cross-country rallying, the drivers want a durable, robust and versatile product, but they also ask for increasingly higher performance.
Cross-country rallies and bajas frequently feature a wide variety of terrains, from rough and rocky trails, to sand and dust, etc. Competitors must be prepared by a wide range of conditions, too, from searing heat, to mud and even frozen ground. In the majority of cases, such as on the Dakar, the regulations only permit a single type of tyre for the entire rally, while the technique known as 're-cutting' tread patterns during events is not allowed. As a consequence, cross-country rally tyres must be particularly versatile.
To adapt their tyres to the prevailing conditions, the crews can, however, run different tyre pressures, which are a fundamental factor in all forms of motor sport. "Rocky surfaces call for high pressures, around three bar, in order to protect the casings," explains BFGoodrich tyre technician Dominique Bravy. "On the contrary, when crossing sand dunes, crews need to lower their tyre pressures, to perhaps 1.6 bar, with a view to increasing the tyre's 'footprint'. Afterwards, and this is something the crews sometimes forget, it is necessary to re-inflate the tyres after finishing with the sand to avoid unseating and puncturing on harder ground." Buggies are equipped with systems that permit the crews to adjust tyre pressures from inside the cabin, but such systems are banned on four-wheel drive vehicles.
On an event like the Dakar, punctures are practically inevitable. BFGoodrich tyres are reputed for their strength, yet the combination of repeated knocks over stages of sometimes hundreds of kilometres in length and the 'over enthusiastic' driving styles of certain competitors tends to put tyres to an extremely tough test. "The objective is to make sure punctures are as infrequent as possible," adds Dominique Bravy. "Rear tyres are usually the most prone, because the weight on the rear wheels and the lateral forces they must contend with are considerable on these events. The rear right tyre is in fact the one that suffers the most because it is out of the driver's line of sight." Indeed, the rear right wheel often brushes the stones found either side of the track!
The factory prototypes are equipped with a low tyre pressure detector. The Dakar regulations permit vehicles to carry between two and four spare wheels, but run-flat systems are not permitted for the car category in cross-country rallies (unlike the bikes which run with mousse inserts).
The Dakar is a major event for BFGoodrich. Almost 3,000 cross-country rally tyres have been produced for the 2009 event.
With the exception of the Baja T/A tyres produced for USA-built buggies, all the Michelin Group's competition tyres (rallying, rally-raids) are designed at its headquarters in France. Some 2,900 competition tyres (All-Terrain, Rock T/A, G2 and G3) were produced in Autumn 2008. These tyres were despatched to the brand's different partners who are responsible for them before and during the event. Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have a stock 350 tyres each for the 2009 Dakar, while BMW, which has entered six cars, has a stock of 400 covers. In all, 2,900 BFGoodrich competition tyres have been shipped to Argentina by the firm's partner teams. For the event, in addition to the two Euromaster trucks where tyres are fitted and removed free of charge for competitors, a BFGoodrich truck will follow the entire event from bivouac to bivouac.
FACTS AND FIGURES:
1 new BFGoodrich tyre for the 2009 Dakar: the All-Terrain
3 BFGoodrich technicians on the event to advise the brand's partners
4 spare wheels allowed to be carried on each vehicle
9 BFGoodrich is targeting its ninth Dakar win in 2009
24kg the weight of a BFGoodrich Rock T/A tyre (without rim)
148 BFGoodrich partners on the 2009 Dakar
2,900 the number of BFGoodrich competition tyres produced for the 2009 Dakar
CROSS-COUNTRY RALLIES: A CLEAN SWEEP FOR BFGOODRICH IN 2008!
BFGoodrich tyres took the spoils on a range of events in 2008 which that took them from Central Europe to the Iberian Peninsula, and even Brazil with its factory team partners Volkswagen, Mitsubishi and BMW, not to mention the brand's successes with the Buggy- Schlesser in Morocco and over the sand of Tunisia. Nasser Al-Attiyah (BMW) brought BFGoodrich top honours in the FIA Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and an 11th title in the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, while the brand's tyres also won the Baja 100 for the 22nd time since 1986.
The 2008 rally-raid season kicked off in Hungary with the Central Europe Rally, the first event to count towards the newly-created Dakar Series. The sandy, rolling countryside of the Hungarian plains and the twisty tracks of Romania's Carpathian Mountains produced an incredibly close battle, with victory ultimately going to Carlos Sainz (VW/BFGoodrich).
BFGoodrich's partner teams then followed different programmes. Mitsubishi and BMW competed with the new All-Terrain tyre for the first time on the Rali Transiberico (Portugal), while the Volkswagen Race Touareg 2s were contesting the Rally Sertoes in Brazil. The Transiberico turned out to be another extremely close event, with victory going to Frenchman Luc Alphand (Mitsubishi).
Mitsubishi and BMW were back in action on the Baja Espana at the end of July where Nasser Al-Attiyah produced a maiden win for BFGoodrich's new All-Terrain tyre. The Qatarbased driver and his BMW X3 CC won practically every stage to finish ahead of Spaniard Nani Roma (Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich).
The second fixture of the Dakar Series saw Volkswagen engage in battle once again with the BMW and Mitsubishi squads as the three leading rally-raid teams profited from the Portuguese event to fine-tune their preparations for the 2009 Dakar. Stephane Peterhansel took revenge by beating Carlos Sainz by a mere 16 seconds. Then, towards the very end of the year, Nasser Al-Attiyah wrapped up two major cross-country titles for BMW and BFGoodrich, while victory in the 41st Baja 1000 was claimed by Roger Norman and Larry Roeseler in their Ford F-150 competing on BFGoodrich tyres.