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Rally Australia Michelin preview

2001 World Rally Championship Round 13: Rally Australia (November 1st ­ 4th 2001) Choice is order of day on Australia's marbles In the build-up to the recent Sanremo Rally, we anticipated that the Italian round and the Tour of Corsica could...

2001 World Rally Championship
Round 13: Rally Australia (November 1st ­ 4th 2001)

Choice is order of day on Australia's marbles
In the build-up to the recent Sanremo Rally, we anticipated that the Italian round and the Tour of Corsica could well play a key role in the 2001 title decision. And so they did. For in addition to the clear-cut domination of Michelin's partners in these two asphalt rallies, Peugeot-Michelin's maximum haul of 32 points launched the French squad to 2nd place in the championship with two rounds to go. Time will tell whether this last-minute rush suffices for the "Lions" to secure their second consecutive crown. Meanwhile, on the Drivers' front, few of the front-runners added to their score in France which means that six candidates are still in with a mathematical chance of the title, although Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi-Michelin) and Colin McRae (Ford) continue to enjoy a slight edge. The next episode of this season-long suspense story comes this weekend in Australia.

Barely five weeks after their return from New Zealand, the WRC regulars are back in the southern hemisphere this weekend for the final long-hauler of the season, Rally Australia. Famous for the marble-like stones that cover them, the tracks that criss-cross the extensive forests around Perth have frequently been the scene of slow-up tactical driving encouraged by the importance of start order into the stages.

Year after year, the first drivers on the road have been only too conscious of their role as unwitting 'road sweepers' as they brush aside the top layer of small ferrous pebbles to progressively expose a clearer, performance-enhancing line for those following behind. In the past, with start order for each leg dictated by the classification at the end of the previous day, this inbuilt disadvantage has tended to produce the sort of cat and mouse strategies more familiar to the world of sprint cycling.

In a bid to alleviate this problem, the organisers have this year come up with a sportingly fairer system whereby the drivers will get the chance to choose their road position themselves. The provisional leader at the end of Day 1 will be able to select the start order he prefers for the following day, the next driver on the overnight leaderboard will then choose from the places that remain, etc., etc.*.
(*) Drivers will choose their start order on Day 1 as a function of their provisional ranking in the Drivers' championship.

Although this experimental system won't resolve everything for everyone, all the favourites will at least be obliged to attack from the green light... and that can only be a positive step for the spectators on this, the penultimate encounter of the nail-biting 2001 championship scrap!

Tyres and the World Rally Championship
Like any tyre (car, truck,...), a World Rally Championship tyre has to fulfil a certain number of functions: grip, absorb, steer, transmit, resist. To be competitive, it must of course combine all these roles. However, the specificity of each round tends to put the spotlight on one or sometimes two of these functions - Grip, Absorb, Steer, Transmit, and Resist.

These products will be available in two compounds according to conditions: 8 (for mild weather or wet ground) and 9 (for hot weather and/or harder wearing stages).

Michelin will have a total staff of 14 in Australia. The total number of covers available for the event will be approximately 2,320 shipped out by ship and plane. All will be fitted with Michelin's ATS system (Appui Temporaire Souple).
* Surface type : smooth gravel
* Number of 'stages'* : 21
* Total distance* : 1403.77 km
* Total 'stage' distance* : 396.77 km
(*) Organisers' data

In format terms, this year's Rally Australia features few modifications of any significance and stays with an opening leg centered on Mundaring, a day of action around Harvey/Colley and a final leg run in the forest complex formerly known as "Bunnings" (now "Sotico"). The programme also includes three visits to the celebrated super-special organised within a stone's throw of Perth city centre.

Meanwhile, in a bid to bring a halt to the sort of tactical games that detracted from the smooth running of last year's event (as well as of the recent New Zealand Rally), the organisers of the championship's penultimate round have introduced a system which will allow the best placed drivers at the end of each leg (or in the World Championship prior to the start) to select their stage start order themselves. This experiment will no doubt be followed closely by other WRC gravel rally organisers.

Last but by no means least, this year's Rally Australia includes a marathon 45km stage (SS13, Wellington Dam) on Day 2.

Michelin's WRC partners in Australia:

HYUNDAI MOTORSPORT:
Alister McRae/David Senior (GB/GB)
Kenneth Eriksson/Staffan Parmander (S/S)

MARLBORO MITSUBISHI RALLIART:
Tommi Mäkinen/Timo Hantunen (FIN/FIN)
Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets (B/B)

PEUGEOT SPORT:
Didier Auriol/Denis Giraudet (F/F)
Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen (FIN/FIN)
Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietilainen (FIN/FIN)
Gilles Panizzi/Hervé Panizzi (F/F)

Recent Rally Australia winners:
2000 Grönholm / Rautiainen (Peugeot ­ Michelin)
1999 Burns / Reid (Subaru ­ Pirelli)
1998 Mäkinen / Mannisenmäki (Mitsubishi ­ Michelin)
1997 McRae / Grist (Subaru ­ Pirelli)
1996 Mâkinen / Harjanne (Mitsubishi ­ Michelin)
1995 Eriksson / Parmander (Mitsubishi ­ Michelin)
1994 McRae / Ringer (Subaru ­ Pirelli) *
1993 Kankkunen / Grist (Toyota ­ Michelin)
1992 Auriol / Occelli (Lancia ­ Michelin)
1991 Kankkunen / Piironen (Lancia ­ Michelin)
(*) 2-litre Championship only

2001 Calendar: MC (Monte Carlo, 18-21/1), S (Sweden, 8-11/2), P (Portugal, 8-11/3), E (Catalonia, 22-25/3), RA (Argentina, 3-6/5), CY (Cyprus, 31/5-3/6), GR (Acropolis, 14-17/6), EAK (Safari, 19-22/7), FIN (Finland, 23-26/8), NZ (New Zealand, 20-23/9), I (Sanremo, 4-7/10), F (Tour of Corsica, 18-21/10), AUS (Australia, 1- 4/11), GB (Great Britain, 22-25/11).

-Michelin-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Freddy Loix , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Alister McRae , Hervé Panizzi , Timo Rautiainen , Kenneth Eriksson , David Senior , Risto Pietilainen , Denis Giraudet , Sven Smeets , Staffan Parmander , Timo Hantunen