Cyprus Rally Michelin final report

CARLOS SAINZ (FORD) TOPS ANOTHER ALL-MICHELIN PODIUM Carlos Sainz's magnificent start-to-finish win in Cyprus today may well turn out to be a landmark event in the 2000 World Championship. For one, it was the Spaniard's first win in 26 months,...


Carlos Sainz's magnificent start-to-finish win in Cyprus today may well turn out to be a landmark event in the 2000 World Championship. For one, it was the Spaniard's first win in 26 months, since the 1998 New Zealand Rally in fact. The result takes his total to 23 WRC victories, making him the most successful driver in the history of the championship, equal with Juha Kankkunen.

It also puts the Ford-Michelin driver back in the chase for the Drivers' title that is turning out to be a thrilling four-cornered affair between himself, current leader Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot-Michelin), Colin McRae (Ford-Michelin) and Subaru's Richard Burns. A mere seven points cover these four drivers with four rounds of the series remaining.

Meanwhile, Sainz and McRae's fourth one-two result for Ford-Michelin in six events takes the British-based team clear at the top of the Manufacturers' table.

That's enough about the consequences of the all-Michelin podium in Cyprus, for it has to be said that Carlos Sainz was in imperial form on the Mediterranean island. He took the lead at the end of Stage 1 and was never really challenged until the flag. He pulled out a full 1m 20s lead over his closest chaser at the end of the first day and was then able to control comfortably from in front to the finish.

Much of this advantage was forged when he stayed on the competitive, new evolution Michelin Z10 tyre throughout Leg 1 (see Michelin's Rally, below) while Burns, probably the man most likely to put the pressure on following McRae's delay with brake troubles on SS5/6, switched to a more conservative tyre choice and lost a significant amount of ground.

Given the size of Sainz's cushion, the attention turned to the battle for second, third and fourth. Championship leader Marcus Gronholm was one of the early victims of the punishing conditions when his 206 WRC was sidelined with electrical problems on Friday afternoon, but teammate François Delecour was there to take over the baton for Peugeot-Michelin. Although the Frenchman never concealed that his priority was to reach the finish, the combination of his consistency and a string of technical troubles for Burns netted a merited place on the podium alongside the Ford pair.

Colin McRae earned his second place thanks essentially to a remarkable time on the long, hot, rough, rocky and twisty SS14. The exploit saw the Scot to jump two places from 4th to 2nd in one go, despite picking up two punctures (front-left, rear-left) in the test. Happily, Michelin's ATS system proved its value once again and the Ford driver was able to complete the stage without time loss. Indeed, the ATS system worked similar wonders throughout the three-day event, although with less spectacular consequences.

Tommi Makinen finished in fifth position, picking up speed on Day 2 after a relatively slow start to collect a total of four fastest stage times. With the set-up of both Mitsubishi-Michelin's optimised to match the gruelling conditions, teammate Freddy Loix (8th) was also a regular name at the top of the stage timesheets, including two outright stage victories on Day 2. The Belgian was delighted to have justified his longstanding claim that he can match the best when he is on an equal footing as far as stage knowledge is concerned.

Sixth place finally fell to Markko Martin in his privately-run Toyota-Michelin. The young Estonian was always in the frame with a number of eloquent stage performances, including two third-fastest times. He figured as high as fifth at one stage, but was unable to resist the comeback charge of Tommi Makinen, but successfully warded off Juha Kankkunen (7th, Subaru). If the fancy takes him, he will always be able to boast that he spilt two quadruple World Champions. and he is only 24 years of age!

Without doubt the most disappointed factory team in Cyprus was Skoda. The team had chosen the Mediterranean island for the debut of the latest evolution of its Octavia WRC-Michelin but the cars of both Armin Schwarz and Luis Climent failed to make it past the end of Leg 1. The German rolled out of the event on SS1 while his Spanish teammate terminally damaged his engine in an accident later in the day.


FOUNDATIONS FOR SUCCESS. The performance of the latest evolution Michelin Z10, plus careful tyre management from Carlos Sainz on the long grouped stages (SS5/SS6) on Leg 1, were important keys to the Ford driver's success in Cyprus. His cool-headed, paced run through these tests was followed by the decision to stay with this high performance product for the rest of the day rather than switch to a more conservative choice as some rival drivers did. By the end of Leg 1, the Spaniard had pulled out a lead equivalent to 0.57 seconds per kilometre over his closest non-Michelin chaser and was thereafter able to control from in front.

NEW EVOLUTION. Michelin's research and development staff were delighted with the 1-2-3 performance of the familiar Michelin Z pattern which was being used here for the first time with a new 10 construction/compound. This weekend's performance is a tremendous reward for the intensive development work they put in over the summer despite the very short timeframe available for testing and production for this event. After the one-two success of this tyre with Ford-Michelin last June in Greece, the latest evolution of this product was used by all of Michelin's WRC partners throughout the rally.

STATISTICS DEPARTMENT. Sainz's victory takes Michelin's score for 2000 to 7 wins from 10 rounds, including start-to-finish victories on four consecutive gravel rallies (Acropolis, New Zealand, Finland, Cyprus). Michelin drivers collected a total of 15 fastest times from 23 with 4 different drivers (Sainz 8, Makinen 4, Loix 2, McRae 1).

CONDITIONS. The moment its place on the calendar was confirmed, everyone knew that the Cyprus Rally would be tough in terms of both the roughness of the terrain and heat. And that's the way it was. Despite cooler conditions on Leg 1, ground temperatures reached as high as 44C. In these conditions, wear was always going to be a problem, although the rate of wear varied from one car to another and was not necessarily proportional to the stage times recorded.

<pre> Provisional World Championship standings after 10 rounds

 DRIVERS                MC S EAK P E RA GR NZ FIN CH F I AUS GB Total
Marcus Gronholm (FIN)   M 0 10 0  6 2 6 0 10 10 0 - - - - 44
Colin McRae (GB)        M 0  4 0  0 10 0 10 6 6 6 - - - - 42
Richard Burns (GB)      0 2 10 10 6 10 0 0 0 3 - - - - 41
Carlos Sainz (E)        M 6  0  3 4 4 0 6 4 0 10 - - - - 37
Tommi Makinen (FIN)     M 10 6  0 0 3 4 0 0 3 2 - - - - 28

MANUFACTURERS MC S EAK P E RA GR NZ FIN CH F I AUS GB Total Ford-Michelin M 6 4 3 4 14 0 16 10 6 16 - - - - 79 Subaru 4 5 16 10 6 13 4 0 2 4 - - - - 64 Peugeot-Michelin M 0 11 0 9 3 6 2 10 13 4 - - - - 58 Mitsubishi-Michelin M 12 6 0 2 3 6 0 0 4 2 - - - - 35 Skoda-Michelin M 1 - 3 1 0 - 3 - - 0 - - - - 8 Seat 3 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - - - - 7 Hyundai-Michelin M - 0 - 0 0 1 0 3 1 - - - - - 5

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Marcus Gronholm , François Delecour , Armin Schwarz , Juha Kankkunen , Markko Martin