WRC

Rally Finland: Michelin preview

A launching-pad for the stars! Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, Rally Finland is doubtlessly the most furious round of the WRC calendar and an event every driver dreams of winning, Finns and non-Finns alike! Its hallmarks are ...

A launching-pad for the stars!

Formerly known as the 1000 Lakes Rally, Rally Finland is doubtlessly the most furious round of the WRC calendar and an event every driver dreams of winning, Finns and non-Finns alike! Its hallmarks are its breathtaking speeds, its narrow, tree-lined stages and its incredible jumps-- After claiming a record-breaking, sixth consecutive win in Argentina, can Sebastien Loeb (Citroen -Michelin) become the third non-Nordic driver in history to win in Jyvaskyla ? The answer to that will come on Sunday August 7th, but Michelin, which has won this event nineteen times and which is unbeaten here since 2000, will also contribute of course to the bids of Flying Finns Toni Gardemeister and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford), as well as Skoda's Jani Paasonen and Janne Tuohino.

Rally Finland is a rally of superlatives. The winner of last year's event completed the distance at an average speed of more than 122 kph, while top speeds reach 200 kph over the narrow gravel stages lined with awesome natural barriers in the form of pine and birch trees. Meanwhile, the event's infamous jumps serve as ramps which launch the cars high into the air before coming back to earth many tens of metres further on, to the connoisseur applause of the huge, enthusiastic crowds.

This is a man's rally... in the macho sense of the term! But with the years, it has also become a tyre rally... in the technical sense of the term. The challenge includes the landings and the seemingly never-ending power-slides over the constantly fluctuating grip offered by the thin top coating of gravel, not to mention the wide range of possible temperatures which can vary from 8 to 30C. To match the technical evolution of the cars and their increasingly higher speeds, the 'classic' gravel tyre has developed into a genuine 'racing' tyre offering asphalt - like performance in order to provide maximum steering precision and cornering stability. Tyres for Rally Finland have also become stronger with a view to soaking up the considerable constraints imposed by every landing, on one, two, three and - occasionally - four wheels! This year, Michelin's engineers have worked especially hard to adapt the new Michelin Z BTO tyre - which has won six events in a row in the hands of Sebastien Loeb - to this event's unique demands.

This work has focused notably on stability at high speed and Michelin's engineers spent months preparing the new products that were presented to the drivers shortly after the Acropolis Rally at the end of June. After evaluation one by one during testing in Finland, two products (which still form part of the Z BTO range but which are more efficient than the versions used since last April) were finally selected. The gain compared with the Michelin Z BTO used since Rally New Zealand proved valuable-- in testing. But, as everyone knows, actual competition can often be a very different kettle of fish altogether and the opposition continues to work too!

The new HV-evolution Michelin Z BTO

"Our test work for Rally Finland took place mostly in the wet, but even in the rain the new tyres gave good grip. The Michelin Z BTO should again be effective in Finland," commented Sebastien Loeb after the test session.

After becoming the first non-Nordic driver to win the snowy Swedish Rally, the 2004 World Champion understandably has his sights set on winning Rally Finland ahead of such specialists as Marcus Gronholm, winner of the Jyva skyla- based event on no fewer than four occasions. It is whispered that the Frenchman sees Rally Finland as a priority this season and Michelin has done all in its power to help him achieve his objective.

The new products developed by Michelin's engineers and technicians for this rally are by no means solely for Loeb. Toni Gardemeister (Ford-Michelin), who is currently 4th in the 2005 Drivers' standings, just one point behindGronholm, will also be looking to put in a top performance on home soil. Also profiting from Michelin's latest tyretechnology will be his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen (Ford-Michelin) who has been nominated as eligible to score Manufacturers' pointsby Ford. After his outstanding runs in Sardinia and Greece at the wheel of a privately-entered car, the young Finn will be out to prove a point on his home event. Michelin's latest innovations will also be available to Skoda's drivers, as well as to a long list of private entries, including Stohl, Sohlberg, Latvala, etc.

BFGOODRICH TYRES IN THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP FROM 2006

'Nani' Roma wins the Spanish Baja for Mitsubishi-BFGoodrich

Active in the World Rally Championship since the creation of the series in 1973, the Michelin Group's presence in the sport will continue next season via its brand BFGoodrich.

Founded in 1870 by Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, the BFGoodrich brand has flown the colours of the Michelin Group on four wheels (cars) in the Dakar Rally and in the Cross Country World Cup since 1998. From 2006, BFGoodrich will spearhead Michelin's presence in rallying, both in the WRC and on the Dakar, while the Michelin brand will continue to compete in Formula 1, MotoGP and Endurance racing. BFGoodrich's WRCtyres will be developed and produced in Clermont-Ferrand, France, where the majority of the Group's competition tyres are designed.

A prestigious sporting past In 1976, BFGoodrich tyres won America's most prestigious off -road competition, the American Baja. Nearly three decades later, in 2004, BFGoodrich won 75% of the Cross Country events organised across the world, including a long list of European and American Bajas, the Dakar, etc. Thanks to Bruno Saby's recent win in the Rallye d'Orient with Volkswagen -BFGoodrich, BFGoodrich tyres clinched the 2005 Cross Country World Cup with two rounds remaining. More recently, BFGoodrich tyres also helped Joan Nani Roma claim his first ever win on four wheels. After a glittering career on bikes (victory on the Dakar, four Spanish Baja wins), Nani Roma joined Mitsubishi-BFGoodrich at the beginning of the year and scored his first win in the Spanish Baja. Stephane Peterhansel, made it a one -two finish for Mitsubishi- BFGoodrich.

BFGoodrich: key dates
1903: the first car to cross the USA was equipped with BFGoodrich tyres
1927: Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis plane was equippedwith BFGoodrich tyres
1947: BFGoodrich launches the first tubeless tyre
1976: victory for BFGoodrich tyres in the American Baja
1977: BFGoodrich tyres equip the Columbia Space Shuttle
1990: the BFGoodrich brand joins the Michelin Group

-michelin-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Sébastien Loeb , Jani Paasonen , Stéphane Peterhansel , Mikko Hirvonen , Toni Gardemeister , Bruno Saby , Nani Roma
Teams Citroën World Rally Team