The final asphalt encounter of the 2006 WRC The second half of the season will kick off in front of the Porta Nigra monument in Trier when the 2006 Rallye Deutschland, the final asphalt round of this year's campaign, gets under way. The g-Force...
The final asphalt encounter of the 2006 WRC
The second half of the season will kick off in front of the Porta Nigra monument in Trier when the 2006 Rallye Deutschland, the final asphalt round of this year's campaign, gets under way. The g-Force Profiler has already won on the asphalt of Catalunya and Corsica in the hands of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroen Xsara WRC) and BFGoodrich is looking to claim its first grand slam on sealed surfaces which are so demanding on tyres.
Two months after the win of Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen for Ford/BFGoodrich on June's Acropolis Rally, World Rally Championship action resumes next weekend when the Rallye Deutschland takes competitors in turn to the Mosel Valley, the Hunsruck hills and the Saarland forests.
The German round marks the final asphalt fixture of the 2006 calendar and this season the event celebrates its fifth year as a WRC qualifier. The format remains true to tradition, with a cocktail of three distinct stage types arising from the amalgamation of three former rallies. The first leg takes the WRC stars to the very narrow stages of the Mosel Valley vineyards. From there, they will move on to the half-asphalt/halfconcrete tank tracks of the Baumholder ranges before concluding the weekend with the fast and technically demanding Saarland tests which make up Leg 3.
"The Rallye Deutschland is a very specific event that calls for extremely careful preparation," explains BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard. "Our partner teams tested on-site near Trier and on the Baumholder ranges at the end of June and early July where they worked on finding the ideal setup. Tyre-wise, BFGoodrich has worked in two areas, namely making the tyres resistant to the aggression of the asphalt/concrete/rocks mix of the military camp plus the availability of a tyre for the vineyard stages capable of working in the sort of high temperatures we saw in July. Our crews will have a '2+' compound (medium-hard) in addition to the traditional '2 compound (medium)."
The weather is often unsettled in the Eifel Mountains ? even at the height of summer - and storms can break out in an instant. Yet during the first leg, for example, tyre choices have to be made more than three hours upstream of the start of the loop's final stage. Everyone at BFGoodrich - from the route observers and fitters to the technicians who advise the drivers at service - will consequently need to be extremely reactive throughout.
"This is a high tension event from start to finish. Not only do our tyres need to be competitive but our range also has to cover all the conceivable conditions. It will also be vital to have the right tyres available at the right time. We will have to be extremely vigilant and reactive if the weather proves changeable."
THE FUTURE OF THE WRC - Important decisions for the future of the WRC were taken during the summer break, some of which directly concerned tyres, including the withdrawal of Pirelli from the WRC at the end of 2006. "I am sad to see Pirelli go. It is a tyre manufacturer with a long history in rallying," comments BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard. This decision does not however call BFGoodrich's commitment to the WRC into question in any way and the firm will continue to be present in 2007. "We will do all we can to supply the same quality of tyres to all the officially registered teams and we will shortly be taking a close look at the staffing, production imperatives and logistics that this implies." Meanwhile, the most recent World Council meeting voted in favour of a control tyre system, as in Formula 1, from 2008, as well as the banning of run-flat mousse systems. "A Tyre Working Group is also to be formed. It will be led by Jacques Berger (FIA Technical Manager) and its conclusions will be submitted to the mid-September meeting of the Rallies Commission and then to October's World Council meeting. Given the complexity of the tyre issue in the WRC, and notably the ranges needed for the different surface types (gravel, asphalt, ice), it is a case of finding the best way to curb costs while at the same time guaranteeing safety and ensuring the WRC's excellent spectator value."
LOGISTICS - The Rallye Deutschland is closelya followed in the calendar by Rally Finland and this has necessitated some complex logistics. The semi-trailers for the latter will need to leave for Jyvaskyla before the end of the Rallye Deutschland, so the gravel tyres for Finland will be trucked to the Bostalsee where the different packages will be made up on the Saturday evening. Tyres for Rally Japan are already at sea.
NOMINATIONS - Drivers had until August 7 to nominate their respective tyre lists for Germany (70 tyres, of which 45 can be used). With temperatures that can potentially vary between 7 and 30C, the make-up of individual packages could well be decisive. Two types of pattern are authorised for asphalt events.