First place for Michelin's last WRC appearance!
Citroen- Michelin's Francois Duval picked up the first world class win of his career in this weekend's Rally Australia,the last round of the 2005 season but also the final WRC outing for Michelin. The Belgian's performance takes the Frenchtyre firm's total toan impressive 224 wins at WRC level, an absolute record. From 2006, its place will be taken by BFGoodrich, a Michelin Group brand since 1990. Its objective will be exactly the same: to enable its partner teams and drivers to remain at the very top of the sport--
The 2004 season saw Francois Duval come close to victory on a number of occasions driving for Ford-Michelin. This season he had finished on the podium three times prior to the trip out to Australia where, over the fast but narrow stages of the Perth region, the Citroen -Michelin driver - who will celebrate his 25th birthday in a few days' time- finally secured his first world class win by beating Harri Rovanpera (2nd, Mitsubishi) and Manfred Stohl (3rd, Citroen -Michelin), this weekend's best-placed privateer.
Citroen -Michelin made sure of its third Manufacturers' title in Spain a fortnight ago, so Sebastien Loeb and Francois Duval were given a free rein to drive as they saw fit in Australia. Sebastien Loeb, winner here in 2004, had the unenviable task of running first on the road on Leg 1 which meant he spent much of the day sweeping aside a clear line through the loose gravel for those further down the order. Even so, the Frenchman succeeded in taking the lead after SS8, but he then crashed head on into a eucalyptus tree on the following test which instantly spelled his first retirement due to a driving error since the 2003 Rally Argentina.
His disappearance left Petter Solberg on top at the end of Day 1 with a healthy cushion over Francois Duval and the surprising Colin McRae, up to 3rd with his Skoda-Michelin. However, a high-speed encounter with a kangaroo on Saturday morning in turn eliminated Solberg's Subaru on the day's second stage when his radiator was damaged, causing his engine to overheat . Meanwhile, Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) had been one of the first top names to bow out when he was halted by a shock absorber failure on Friday morning.
With the three stars of the 2005 championship all out of the running, Francois Duval found himself in front and he knuckled down to profit from the rest of Leg 2 to pull progressively clear of Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) who is always strong on this event (2nd in 2004 with Peugeot-Michelin). The Xsara driver rounded off the second leg with a series of top times which enabled him to return to Perth with a cushion of 27 seconds over Colin McRae. The third and final day was little more than a formality for the Citroen youngster who profited from the Langley Park podium ceremony to pop the champagne and savour the first ever World Rally Championship success for a Belgian driver.
Colin McRae was incontestably the other hero of the weekend. Driving a Skoda-Michelin, the Scot was battling for 2nd place on Sunday when he was sidelined by a problematic clutch change three stages from home. The 1995 World Champion made full use of his position on the road on Friday to complete Day 1 in 3rd place. He then moved up a slot the following morning but was ultimately forced to throw in the towel at the mid-leg service in Perth on the last day.
After finishing 2nd in Cyprus earlier in the year, Manfred Stohl picked up his second podium finish of the season with his privately-entered Kronos-run Citroen -Michelin. Based in Belgium, the Kronos team, which will run Sebastien Loeb 's car in2006, has seen one of its Xsara WRC- Michelins take 'best -placed privateer' honours eight times this season withStohl and Xevi Pons. Austrian-born Manfred Stohl successfully warded off the final day charge of Chris Atkinson (4th, Subaru) who had led early on before falling back with a power steering problem.
The latest generation Ford Focus-Michelin which will spearhead the Blue Oval's WRC challenge from 2006 made its debut in Australia. Although Toni Gardemeister retired shortly before the end of the rally, the two Focus WRC06s proved both reliable and competitive. Czech Roman Kresta (6th) rounded off the event with a fastest stage time at a moment when the scrap for 3rd place was still raging. The Ford-Michelin team finally picked up 3rd place in the 2005 Manufacturers' standings behind Citroen -Michelin and Peugeot.
224 WINS Since 1973, Michelin has taken 224 world class wins in rallying (including 24 with the Citroen Xsara WRC!). It opened its scorecard in January 1973 thanks to the success of Jean- Claude Andruet (Renault-Alpine) on the Monte Carlo Rally and rounded off its record with Duval's win this weekend in Australia. In between time, Michelin tyres have won across the planet, over all the types of terrain and in all the conditions encountered in World Championship rallying.
38 TITLES In association with a long list of prestigious team and driver partners, Michelin tyres has secured no fewer than 38 world rally titles (20 Drivers, 18 Manufacturers). Tommi Makinen was the most successful driver with Michelin (23 wins), although Sebastien Loeb (20 wins) was catching fast. On the Manufacturers' front, Peugeot and Michelin have won 46 wins together, while the Tour of Corsica was Michelin's most successful hunting ground ( 22 wins), just ahead of the Swedish Rally (20 wins).
EVOLUTION AND REVOLUTION. Although tyres evolve consistently from one year to the next in rallying, revolutions are rare. In 1973, Michelin revolutionised world rallying with the introduction of both the first slick tyre (asphalt) and its famous Nora tyre (gravel). In 1987, Michelin became the first tyre firm to introduce the ATS system (Appui Temporaire Souple, or Temporary Flexible Support) which allows drivers to finish - and even win - stages even with a puncture. October 1998 saw the launch of the 'FP' generation of asphalt tyres which have since won practically every asphalt round of the championship. Finally, this year saw the introduction of the Michelin Z BTO which took world class rallying by storm, contributing significantly to the success of Michelin drivers and teams on gravel, with a total score of 8 wins from 11 gravel rounds in 2005.
BFGOODRICH AND MOTOR SPORT. Motor sport is a fundamental part of BFGoodrich's DNA . For more than thirty years, BFGoodrich tyres have been the benchmark in off-road competition. They have also won the celebrated Pikes Peak hill climb, the Daytona 24 Hours, the Dakar Rally (five consecutive wins with Mitsubishi) and the FIA Cross Country World Cup (2005 title winners with Volkswagen). WRC testing with BFGoodrich tyres begins early December 2005.