Dakar: BFGoodrich preview

BFGoodrich® Tires looking for a fifth consecutive Dakar win BFGoodrich® Tires: official partner of the 2006 Euromilhoes Dakar A single tyre type for the factory teams which can choose one of the two products developed by BFGoodrich® ...

BFGoodrich® Tires looking for a fifth consecutive Dakar win

BFGoodrich® Tires: official partner of the 2006 Euromilhoes Dakar

A single tyre type for the factory teams which can choose one of the two products developed by BFGoodrich® Tires

Onboard inflation/deflation systems authorised for two-wheel drive cars

A varied route featuring a marathon leg of more than 1,400km, plus roadbook- based navigation

The 28th Dakar Rally, which is due to start in Lisbon on December 31, will take entrants on a 9,043km traverse of Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and finally Senegal where the event will end on the shores of the Lac Rose. To reach this traditional finish ceremony location, the 508 competitors will have to rely principally on their roadbooks. The organisers have effectively taken steps to restrict the use of GPS aids with a view to putting the onus back on traditional navigation skills and enhancing the role of the co-drivers. All the top runners have honed their preparation for this year's African classic with particular care and the 2006 Euromhiloes Dakar promises to be a very close and exciting thriller.

With twenty consecutive Baja 1000 victories, eight FIA Cross-Country World Cups and six wins on the legendary Dakar to its name, BFGoodrich® Tires, producer of rally-raid's benchmark tyres, has this year produced two types of tyre for its partners: the Rock T/A (235/8516), which has triumphed in the past two Dakars in association with Mitsubishi, plus the evolution All-Terrain T/A Comp (235/8516). Given that the single tyre type ruling continues to apply this year, the different factory teams will have to choose just one of these tyres prior to the start.

"The single tyre type ruling and the ® outlawing of automatic inflation/deflation systems for 4x4 vehicles means that the work of BFGoodrich Tires has this year focused on the versatility of its products. The BFGoodrich Rock is suited to all the different types of terrain visited by the 2006 Dakar.

However, crews must be extremely rigorous when it comes to adjusting their tyre pressure to match the type of surface they are actually driving over," underlines Aime Chatard, BFGoodrich® Tires' Rallies Programme Manager. "On rough ground, running with the 'ideal' pressure protects the tyre and its sidewalls, while for sand it is necessary to reduce air pressure in order to increase the size of the tyre-to-ground contact patch. Yet crews very often omit to re-inflate their tyres after crossing dunes or voluntarily run with low pressure over rough portions with a view to enhancing performance. But punctures are inevitable in this case."

Tyre and tyre pressure management

Dominique Bravy, BFGoodrich® Tires Cross-Country tyre technician, also stresses the importance of running with the right tyre pressure: "Good tyre and tyre pressure management is vital in cross- country rallying. The stages are long, the surface is often rough and the competitors get up to very high speeds. This causes tyre pressures to increase with distance. Now that cabin-mounted inflation/deflation systems have been banned, certain crews are tempted to take risks by running with low pressures. Yet at the beginning of a leg, the cars can be carrying as much as 500 litres of fuel plus four spare wheels. Running with such ® heavy load, competitors need to inflate their tyres to the a pressures recommended by BFGoodrich Tires' technicians, especially at the rear." However, although onboard inflation/deflation systems continue to be outlawed in the case of 4x4 vehicles, they are still permitted for two-wheel drive cars. "This is undeniably a 'plus' for the two-wheel drive runners because they don't have to keep stopping to adjust the pressure of their tyres, an operation which can cost something like four minutes."

This year, BFGoodrich® Tires has made the All-Terrain tyre an evolution of the Rock available for its partner teams. "The construction of the BFGoodrich All-Terrain Comp allows it to combine reduced rolling resistance on sand with greater precision. It's not a revolution, however; more an evolution," says Aime Chatard. "In the world of cross-country rallying, testing is a difficult and complex business. In order to validate an evolution, you need to cover between 350 and 400km. This work generally takes place in Morocco where it is possible to work on different types of surface in the same basic area. The teams have worked hard to prepare for the 2006 event and the vehicles themselves have come on considerably. The technology we will see on this year's Dakar is of a very high level."

Rocks, wadis, dunes, camel grass... and the rest!

The total length of the 2006 Dakar is 9,043km, of which some 5,000km will be against the clock. It's a classic route which features all the usual challenges as competitors make their way between Lisbon and Dakar, including the rocky tracks and wadis of Morocco, the dunes and ergs of Mauritania and the camel grass and flats of Mali, while Guinea will see a switch to narrower tracks that wind their way through luxuriant vegetation. "The first two stages in Morocco could spring a surprise or two," warns Aime Chatard. "The tracks are very rough and the drivers will be looking to size each other up as the rally gets into its swing, so the pace will no doubt be very quick." Another likely challenge will be the marathon leg that the organisers have programmed during the second half of the event, between Bamako and Tambacounda. Although crews will be able to rest overnight in Labe, no work on the cars will be permitted. "Last year, the marathon leg was severely affected by a sandstorm, so we weren't able to get any feedback about tyres which will have to survive for 1,400km. That's a very tough challenge."

A clash between Mitsubishi and Volkswagen, with BMW and Schlesser-Ford waiting in ambush

With a record of ten Dakar wins to its name, including five in a row, Mitsubishi Ralliart once again stands out as the team to beat in 2006. As part of his and the team's preparation for the Dakar, outgoing, two-times winner Stephane Peterhansel won last November's UAE Desert Challenge in style, while Luc Alphand, who finished 2nd in 2005, is becoming more and more competitive. This will be the former skiing champion's ninth Dakar and he won two rallies outright in 2005 (Tunisia and Portuguese Baja). Mitsubishi's ranks also include double Dakar winner Hiroshi Masuoka and former biker Joan Nani Roma.

Volkswagen has revealed its determination to win the 2006 Dakar by entering five Race Touareg 2s for Bruno Saby, who took three FIA Cross Country wins in 2005 to sew up the World Cup as early as last July, Jutta Kleinshmidt (2001 Dakar winner), two-times World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, South Africa's Giniel De Villiers and Mark Miller from the USA, a choice line-up indeed to take on Mitsubishi's experienced squad. However, the BMW-X5s and the Schlesser-Ford Buggies (Jean- Louis Schlesser, Thierry Magnaldi, Josep Maria Servia) can also be expected to play a leading role again.

Competition from America

Although BFGoodrich® Tires supply the majority of the 2006 field, the Dakar is not a 'control tyre' event. "We will be keeping a close eye on the performance of America's Robby Gordon. He's an extremely experienced off-roader and he will be driving a Hummer running on another brand of tyres," says Aime Chatard. During the Dakar, individual teams are responsible for the transport of their own tyres (approximately 80 per vehicle, and mounted on rims prior to the start). Even so, additional supplies and fitting work (carried out on-site by Euromaster) is programmed in the course of the event.

Why are punctures inevitable on the Dakar?

Although the Dakar lasts two weeks, punctures still represent a significant penalty in terms of time. And despite the tyre manufacturers' best efforts, punctures tend to be inevitable during this event. Why? The stages are long and the tracks used can be very rough (in Morocco, for example). Meanwhile, the vehicles are heavily laden at the start of stages (fuel, spare wheels), yet air pressures are not always adjusted for maximum performance. After sandy sections, certain competitors 'forget' to re- inflate their tyres. Also, Dakar tyres cannot be equipped with run-flat mousse like their World Rally Championship equivalents (excessively long stages, very high temperatures, etc.). Finally, the vehicles are becoming faster and faster, average speeds are higher and the scrap between the top teams is getting fiercer all the time.

BFGoodrich® Tires: performance and control... Once again, the international motor sport calendar kicks off with the Dakar and, this year, BFGoodrich® Tires will be looking for a fifth straight win in this legendary event. To do that, the firm is pinning its hopes on proven products which have been developed in the same spirit as the rest of its range and designed for drivers looking for performance, control and driving pleasure at the wheel. A ® careful blend of pioneering technology and synonymous with the spirit of adventure, BFGoodrich Tires offer outstanding performance, grip and handling!

How it all began... Demonstrated difference... ® ® BFGoodrich Tires, the pioneering brand BFGoodrich Tires recently collected its twentieth established by Benjamin Franklin Goodrich in 1870, consecutive success in the Baja 1000, the original is a living legend, part of American automotive off-road competition. And with a score of five history. The continent's first automobile, a Winton, consecutive Dakar wins to its name, plus a further was equipped with these tyres, as was the 'Spirit of FIA Cross Country World Cup title in 2005 with St Louis' with which Charles Lindbergh made the Volkswagen (Bruno Saby), the firm has carved out first crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. Since then, the an enviable record for itself in motor sport. A legend has continued to grow, including on the pioneer of the off-road tyre, the resolutely long term success of BFGoodrich® Tires in motor sport has international competition front which has seen the firm collect an impressive string of major off-road left its rivals standing. successes, including a twentieth consecutive win Active in WRC too on the 2005 Baja 1000. Building on its off-road rallying successes and its Technological challenges. thirty years in motor sport, BFGoodrich® Tires will The brand's reputation is built on a tradition of make its debut in world class rallying in 2006 when industry firsts. It was BFGoodrich® Tires who its products line up for the start of January's Monte introduced ®the first tubeless tyre in 1940. Carlo Rally. ®This is a fresh challenge for BFGoodrich Tires was also the first to adopt BFGoodrich Tires whose mission will be to synthetic rubber in 1954, before introducing the contribute to the bids of its partner teams against radial tyre to the United States with the Bibendum strong opposition over terrains as varied as patent in 1965. In 1967, the company filed the first asphalt, snow and gravel. As in rally-raids, the keys patent for a tyre capable of running flat. to success in the World Rally Championship will be driving precision, reactivity, traction and endurance. A leading product... Experience As a result, BFGoodrich Tires has moved into third place in the North American market and the brand With more than 30 years®of motor sport experience is today recognized by both industry insiders and to its name, BFGoodrich Tires has converted all enthusiasts as the leading off-road tyre brand. these qualities into products that can be fitted to the In Europe, it already holds fourth place in the 4x4 majority of four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles replacement tyre market and is keenly interested in and utility vehicles, as well as to high performance the fast expanding high performance sector. cars and passenger cars. Based on a number of products (g-Force Profiler, Profiler 2, Touring), its range has already won over demanding, connoisseur motorists, racing enthusiasts and other trendsetters across the world.

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Bruno Saby , Nani Roma , Thierry Magnaldi