* A one-two finish for Kronos Total Citroen/BFGoodrich with Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti * BFGoodrich privateers take front stage Three weeks after his triumph in Mexico, Sebastien Loeb ...
* A one-two finish for Kronos Total Citroen/BFGoodrich with Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti
* BFGoodrich privateers take front stage
Three weeks after his triumph in Mexico, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen/BFGoodrich) was in winning form again during the fourth round of the 2006 World Championship in Catalunya this weekend. The two-time World Champion finished clear of Spaniard Dani Sordo (Citroen/BFGoodrich) and Finland's Marcus Gronholm (Ford/BFGoodrich).
On the Catalan asphalt, the BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler was fastest over all sixteen stages and BFGoodrich runners monopolised the top-six positions in the final standings.
Unbeaten on asphalt since the end of 2004, Sebastien Loeb was determined to continue his run this weekend in the mountains of the Costa Daurada. Even so, it was Marcus Gronholm who emerged as the early pacesetter with his new Ford Focus WRC06/BFGoodrich. The winner of January's icy Monte Carlo and February's snowy Swedish Rally was fastest over the first three stages, pulling out a 10s gap over Loeb. In his defence, the Frenchman was slowed by brake problems but he readily admitted that he always thought he was going to have a serious fight on his hands in Spain.
That battle failed to materialise however when Gronholm's turbo failed on SS5, relegating the Ford driver to 10th overall by close of play Friday evening. The same stage saw the Finn's team-mate Mikko Hirvonen drop from 3rd overall with an identical problem. Their combined misfortunes left the three Kronos Total Citroen/BFGoodrich cars with a commanding lead out front ahead of Subaru's Petter Solberg and the weekend's fastest privateer Alexandre Bengue (Peugeot/BFGoodrich).
Meanwhile, Marcus Gronholm found himself in the same situation as Sebastien Loeb on the Monte Carlo Rally, i.e. faced with the prospect of having to drive flat out in the hope of salvaging some points at the end of the event. Two fastest times in the course of the second day saw him close to within a handful of seconds of the podium despite the highly soiled stages produced by the preceding cars copiously indulging in corner cutting. Indeed, these tricky conditions caused the demise of 3rd-placed Xevi Pons (Citroen/BFGoodrich) who slid off the road. Alexandre Bengue consequently found himself with a foot on the provisional podium, although he was ultimately dislodged with two stages to go by the charging Gronholm who posted the best time on 10 of the weekend's 16 stages.
The season's first asphalt encounter produced a number of pleasant surprises from competitive privateers, including the Czech Republic's Jan Kopecky (5th) and Belgian Francois Duval (6th). The two Skoda Fabia WRC/BFGoodrich drivers succeeded in beating the factory Subarus of Petter Solberg (7th) and Stephane Sarrazin (8th).
The 2006 Rally Catalunya was unfortunately marred by a tragic accident which caused the death of the co-driver of the N54 Citroen, Jorg Bastuck, who was hit by another competing car while changing a wheel during SS2 following a minor off. Everyone at BFGoodrich would like to express their condolences to his family and friends.
Sebastien Loeb (Kronos Total Citroen/BFGOODRICH): "The early part of the rally was quite difficult and I really had to push hard to keep up with Gronholm. But when he was slowed by mechanical problems I was able to control from in front. I possibly went for too hard a tyre choice for Friday's second loop of stages. After that, though, I was totally satisfied with my medium compound g-Force Profiler 2s. The Mousse system enabled me to finish two stages during Leg 2 when it was difficult to avoid all the stones."
Aime Chatard (BFGoodrich Rallies Programme Manager): "Everyone was a little concerned about the weather but in the end we had blue skies and relatively high temperatures all weekend. Ground temperatures even reached 33C on Saturday afternoon. The BFGoodrich drivers had three types of tyre available but at the end of the day they could have done the entire rally with just one type, the g- Force Profiler 2 (medium compound). That speaks volumes for the competitiveness and durability of our asphalt tyres. We could well face tougher conditions when the championship resumes in two weeks time in Corsica."
BFGOODRICH TYRES USED
g-Force Profiler 2: This medium compound tyre was used by all BFGoodrich runners at the beginning of Leg 1 with the exception of Francois Duval and Alexandre Bengue (2-) who chose a softer option to favour added grip early in the stages as they took time to settle in. The g-Force Profiler is ideally suited to a temperature range of between 10 and 25C. Its pattern can be slightly re-cut with a view to helping the tread reaching its ideal working temperature more quickly. The BFGoodrich tyres used by the WRC competitors are equipped with a mousse insert which allows them to continue at rally speed even if air is lost. This system proved particularly valuable during Leg 2.
AN EASY RALLY? From the tyre point of view, the 2006 Rally Catalunya was made relatively easier by the consistently pleasant weather. Tyre choices didn't pose any real problems, although certain drivers had placed the emphasis a little too much on soft compounds in their individual quotas. They had anticipated some rain and had consequently favoured soft compound g-Force Profilers.
CORSICA & ARGENTINA. Priority drivers had to nominate their tyre choices for the forthcoming Rally Argentina on March 17 and the containers left for South America by ship this week. Tyres for the Tour of Corsica will be nominated on Monday April 3.
JWRC The winner of the Junior World Rally Championship classification was Martin Prokop (Citroen C2) ahead of Bernd Casier (Renault Clio) and Kris Meeke (Citroen C2) who finished 3rd after staging a dramatic fight back. BFGoodrich is a partner of the JWRC.