By finishing first and second in this weekend's Rally RACC Catalunya- Costa Daurada with Sebastien Loeb and Francois Duval, Citroen -Michelin clinched its third consecutive Manufacturers' world title today in Spain. In stunning form once again ...
By finishing first and second in this weekend's Rally RACC Catalunya- Costa Daurada with Sebastien Loeb and Francois Duval, Citroen -Michelin clinched its third consecutive Manufacturers' world title today in Spain. In stunning form once again despite the stages being made particularly hazardous by the weather conditions, the two-times World Champion Sebastien Loeb (2004 & 2005*) picked up his tenth win of the season, a new record, while Francois Duval (Citroen -Michelin) and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford-Michelin) made it an all-Michelin podium.
Although the penultimate round of the 2005 season ended in bright sunshine in the seaside of resort of Salou, south of Barcelona, the weather conditions were changeable for much of the weekend and this made getting tyre choices right both difficult and crucial. Once again, however, the Michelin N (dry weather) and TA (wet) tyres proved a perfect match for the delicate conditions.
The Catalonian sky turned all possible shades of grey during the opening leg of Spain's WRC round and, at 7:20 a.m. Friday, the first competitors set off from the Portaventura service park in a shower... on dry weather tyres! For just 60 km from there, in the mountains that overlook the Costa Daurada, the roads were perfectly dry.
In the second loop of two stages, the first test was entirely dry and the second all wet. I chose my tyres as a function of the second stage," explained Sebastien Loeb later. Soft compound Michelin Ns were the right choice, even though Dani Sola was fastest over the loop's first stage on medium compound rubber."
By the end of the first leg, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen -Michelin) had pulled out a cushion of nearly 1 minute over his team-mate Francois Duval and exactly 1m 11s over Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot). In SS3, Petter Solberg (Subaru) broke his steering after hitting a bank, while his French team-mate Stephane Sarrazin went off later in the day, his Impreza catching fire.
Leg 2's stages were just as treacherous, but that didn't stop the two factory Citroen drivers reinforcing their advantage at the top of the leaderboard, while Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) retired from 3rd place when his engine failed in the day's very last stage. That all but handed the Citroen- Michelin team its third Manufacturers' title in as many years, enabling Michelin to win six world crowns from a possible six in 2005, in F1 (Renault, Alonso), MotoGP (Yamaha, Rossi) and WRC (Citroen, Loeb).
The Citroen pair weren't alone in making a name for themselves this weekend in Spain. After finishing 2nd in Corsica last week, Toni Gardemeister (Ford-Michelin) was running a promising 4th at the end of Leg 1. Unfortunately, a stone jammed between his rim and brake calliper deprived him of brakes for an entire stage on Day 2 and the Finn fell back ten places. Roman Kresta (5th, Ford-Michelin) put in some top times despite this being his first attempt at the event, while privateers Mikko Hirvonen (3rd, Ford-Michelin) and Xavi Pons (4th, Citroen -Michelin) took their share of the limelight. The scrap for 3rd place between this pair was effectively the highlight of the final day. My tyres were too soft this morning," said Hirvonen who dropped from 3rd to 4th on Saturday evening after receiving a 20-second time penalty. Yesterday, I made a perfect tyre choice for the first loop and that enabled me to move up the order." The Finn eventually made sure of a podium finish when Pons stalled his Xsara on the start line of the final stage.
In the Skoda-Michelin camp, Alexandre Bengue posted some very quick times, inc luding a 4th quickest on SS8, before being sidelined by gearbox problems on the following stage. For the final round of the 2005 championship in Australia (November 11th-13th), Armin Schwarz will team up with Colin McRae who steered his Fabia WRC-Michelin to 6th place in September's Rally GB.
The Rally RACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada was also a chance for Michelin Competition to mark the retirement of its Director Pierre Dupasquier. Team representatives, drivers and media were all present at the Michelin motorhome on Saturday evening to join Edouard Michelin, President and CEO of the Michelin Group, in thanking Pierre for his 30 years of loyal and successful service at the helm of the firm's competition department.
THREE WITH CITROËN. Thanks to Sebastie n Loeb/Daniel Elena, Francois Duval/Sven Smeets and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti (who drove the second nominated Xsara in Turkey and Greece), Citroen and Michelin have succeeded in winning the Manufacturers' world title together for the third year in a row. Bravo, and a huge thank you to everyone at Citroen.
20 + 18 38 Since the creation of the WRC in 1973, Michelin has won 20 Manufacturers' titles (including 6 with the PSA Group) and 18 Drivers' titles (with 10 different drivers).
222 + 1 223. For the 15th round of the season, all three Michelin teams paid tribute to their tyre partner by carrying stickers on their cars featuring the figure '222' which is the number of world class wins Michelin tyres had taken since 1973, up to but not including Catalunya. The figure is now already out of date!
10 FOR SEB! Sebastien Loeb has further extended his record for the highest number of WRC wins in a single season. Rising successfully to the challenge of the Catalunya Rally stages, rendered particularly hazardous by the difficult weather conditions, which in turn complicated tyre choices, the Frenchman picked up his 10th win of the 2005 season! At the same time, the two- times World Champion ensured Michelin's tenth victory in the Spanish round.
FREDERIC HENRY-BIABAUD, Deputy Director, Michelin Competition "I take my hat off to the Citroen and Michelin teams who both started the 2005 season in a somewhat special situation but who both succeeded in motivating their respective troops around a single objective, the world title. Citroen was not sure of its future in WRC and Michelin only supplied three factory teams, but for both companies it turned out to be a dream season. I would like to sincerely thank all those at Michelin - the developers, fitters and technicians - who have worked so hard to provide our partners with the best possible products and service all year long."
GUY FREQUELIN, Citroen Sport Director "Citroen a nd Michelin's path together during the 2005 season has been remarkable. The new Michelin Z BTO came at just the right time to give us a helping hand and was a just reward for the mutual confidence the two companies share. I am particularly proud to have competed exclusively on Michelin tyres as a driver and to be in charge of a Michelin partner-team today."