The 2006 'winter' phase Snow, frost and ice: BFGoodrich tyres triumph in the cold The winter phase of the 2006 World Rally Championship came to an end on Sunday February 5th in Sweden where Ford/BFGoodrich's Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen ...
The 2006 'winter' phase
Snow, frost and ice: BFGoodrich tyres triumph in the cold
The winter phase of the 2006 World Rally Championship came to an end on Sunday February 5th in Sweden where Ford/BFGoodrich's Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen claimed their second consecutive win following BFGoodrich's resounding one-two-three success in Monaco. Both on the partially icy Monte and in the perfect wintry conditions found in Sweden, stud performance played a capital role despite differences in the specification of these metal tips from one event to the next. BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard looks back at the early part of the season...
The g-Force Winter played a prominent role during the Monte Carlo Rally... It did. The conditions were particularly delicate this year on the Monte Carlo Rally. First reports from the 60km opening loop of stages, for example, said there were 22km of frost or ice. But as dawn broke, the frost and damp portions turned to ice which made tyre choice very, very delicate. What a way to start the first stages of the first round of the new season! Getting tyre choice right was vital for confidence.
In retrospect, which driver made the best tyre choice for this loop? We will never know because the third stage was cancelled. Running on half-studded g-Force Winters, Loeb clearly made the ideal choice for SS1. But then Gronholm was quickest on SS2 with studless g-Force Winters. Who knows whose choice was right for the whole group of three stages?
The g-Force Winter was the most common choice by BFGoodrich runners though.... That's right. The majority of BFGoodrich drivers chose the g-Force Winter which features a siped pattern but also a number of different possible studding variants. Then, for Saturday's cold, damp stages, our drivers switched to the g-Force Profiler. Loeb posted all the fastest times on Leg 2 with this tyre. You had seven different types of tyre available for the Monte Carlo Rally. Isn't that a lot?
The Monte Carlo Rally is unique inasmuch as conditions can change, say, from north- to southfacing slopes. This calls for a broad range of tyres, and a great deal of testing upstream of the event.
Given the specific nature of this rally, how would it be possible to reduce the number of different tyre types without compromising safety?
The tyres will need to be even more versatile, and that's already the tendency. Ten years ago, drivers had something like 200 tyres available for each event. Today, individual quotas vary between 50 and 80 tyres. For the Monte, the objective would be to have four types of tyre and that's what we are working towards for the future.
After the Monte Carlo Rally, BFGoodrich tyres took a emphatic win in Sweden in temperatures as low as -20C!
This year, it was great to find classic Swedish Rally conditions with a good coating of ice and some packed snow.
Tyre choice was decisive in Sweden too?
It was, but not in the same way as on the Monte Carlo Rally. In Sweden, it's the amount by which studs protruded from the tread block that had a direct incidence on stage times. Marcus Gronholm, who knows the event very well, always made the best choice for the terrain and his running order. What a scrap he had with Loeb! On SS4, 5 and 6, the gap between the two never exceeded 8/10ths of a second. On SS5, the longest of the rally (40km), Gronholm and Loeb were split by less than a second after 25 minutes of against-the-clock action despite running with different stud choices. Incredible! That says a great deal for the excellent performance of BFGoodrich's products against our rivals Pirelli.
Compared with the Monte Carlo Rally, there are fewer tyre types to choose from in Sweden, yet just as much development work goes into this event?
Testing for the Swedish Rally has to take place in December, in Sweden. But you are never sure to find exactly the same conditions before Christmas (temperature, type and amount of ice, etc.) as you do for the rally itself in February. It's also important to remember that ice isn't the same at -20C as it is at -3C. For the tyres, this makes a real difference. Bigger demands are made of the studs when they strike ice at -20C than at -3C. The Swedish Rally therefore calls for long and sometimes fickle groundwork by the tyre manufacturers and teams alike.
The FIA has restricted tyres for Sweden to just one type of pattern. Does that mean no further reductions can be made?
It does, but what you could do is include a second full winter event in the calendar which would allow us to cover our investment better. Rally Norway is knocking on the WRC's door and we are somewhat in favour of its inclusion. We are curious to see whether our studs are as competitive over the ice of Norway as they are on Swedish ice!