Fernando Alonso, the Renault F1 Team and Michelin scored F1 world championship doubles in 2005 and 2006, lifting the titles for both drivers and constructors.
To commemorate its latest FIA Formula One World Championship triumph, Michelin today welcomed 2007 Renault F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen to the streets of Clermont-Ferrand. At 13:00, the Finn hopped into the Renault R25 to embark upon an exceptional city-centre demonstration. He completed five return runs up and down the Avenue Julien -- one of the city's main thoroughfares, which had been closed off especially for the occasion.
Smiling afterwards, Kovalainen said: "It was really good fun to drive on the streets of Clermont-Ferrand. My first job was to note where all the bumps on the 'track' were. Then, on my final run, I shifted up into fourth gear and reached about 230km/h (140mph). Fortunately, my tyres had enough grip!"
More than 15,000 spectators turned out to watch the spectacular demonstration. Just before the noise started, Nick Shorrock -- Michelin's F1 director in 2005 and 2006 -- addressed the crowd to remind them what a treat it was to see an F1 car unleashed in such surroundings.
He said: "We are very happy to be able to count Clermont-Ferrand as one of only a few cities in the world to have allowed a Formula One car free rein. We would like to thank every department at Michelin and Renault for the contributions they have made to the success of our F1 programme. Michelin is one big family and today we are delighted to be able to celebrate our F1 title successes in the company of so many Clermont-Ferrand residents."
Celebrations have been going on in Clermont-Ferrand since December 10, when Michelin set up an exhibition in the main city square. It includes a real wheel change on a full-scale F1 car, a photo opportunity with the Renault F1 R25 and Mister Bibendum and an F1 workshop recreating all the elements required to fit tyres during a race weekend. Michelin also handed out complimentary posters, flags and earplugs. There was a Renault display, too, featuring two R25 F1 racers, as well as a merchandising stall.
Yesterday evening (Monday), when Michelin's internal F1 employees were invited to a "thank you" cocktail reception, Renault's technicians surprised them by playing the Marseillaise... with the R25's engine. The same anthem rang out in the paddock during this year's season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix.
It was an emotional moment for the whole Michelin team.