Keeping up the momentum!
With twelve wins from a possible twelve since the start of 2006, BFGoodrich tyres have enjoyed an unbeaten round since January, winning on asphalt, ice and dirt. The Rally of Turkey is the final 'hard wearing' fixture of the year after the Acropolis Rally and Cyprus and BFGoodrich would love to add this event to its record before moving on to the significantly faster terrains of Australia and New Zealand in the southern hemisphere.
Tyres - and more precisely the g-Force Gravel, the H1 and the H2 - were a major talking point during the recent Cyprus Rally. Aimé Chatard, BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager, looks back at the event which Sébastien Loeb won for the third year in a row.
"This year, priority drivers are able to choose two different types of tread pattern for the World Championship's three hard-wearing rallies, namely the Acropolis, Cyprus and Turkey. As a rule, BFGoodrich drivers generally choose one type of tyre for the morning loops of stages - the g-Force Gravel - plus another for the afternoon passes - either the H1 or the H2."
For Cyprus, the Kronos Total Citroën drivers opted for the H1. This tyre, which was introduced last June, features the same basic pattern as the familiar g-Force Gravel, only wider (the FIA consequently views it as different to the g-Force Gravel). Meanwhile, the BPFord drivers chose the H2 which had contributed to Marcus Grönholm's win in Greece and which has the same width as the H1. It too was introduced in June but sports a new tread pattern and a reinforced casing. Both the H1 and the H2 have been developed for hard ground, but the H2 is more resistant to knocks.
"Last summer, all BFGoodrich's partner teams had a chance to test the full range of products for hardwearing surfaces. Citroën's drivers preferred the H1 which gave good results in Greece in the hands of Sordo. Ford's tests rapidly focused on the H2 which performed very well on their test stage," continues Aimé Chatard.
"In the mean time, however, some of the stages in Cyprus had been re-surfaced and were not as rough as they had been in previous years. We hadn't been informed of this change and must also be born in mind that testing is not permitted in Cyprus, nor in Turkey for that matter."
So what tyres have been chosen for the Rally of Turkey? "The priority drivers had to nominate their tyre quotas on Monday October 2. The weather hasn't been so good in the Anatolian Mountains recently and, when it rains, the hard ground can become extremely slippery. If the weather is clear for the event, temperatures are unlikely to be as hot as we saw last June in Athens, or even last month in Cyprus where ground temperatures reached almost 50°C! The majority of BFGoodrich drivers have consequently only chosen the 'normal' g-Force Gravel in a selection of compounds (soft, medium, hard) in preference to wider, stronger products like the H1 and the H2."
THE RALLY OF TURKEY SEEN BY...
Mikko Hirvonen (Ford/BFGoodrich)
"I have already competed in the Rally of Turkey twice, although I missed last year's event. The Turkish stages are a little faster than they were in Cyprus, so we will run a stiffer suspension set-up. That said, the possibility of wet weather cannot be ruled out at this time of year. Our tyre choice consequently needs to take all the possible weather conditions onboard, including soft compounds for rain and harder rubber for clear weather."
QUOTAS - Priority 1 drivers had to nominate their tyres for Turkey (a total of 70, of which 45 may be used, including for shakedown) by October 2. As in Cyprus, two types of tread pattern are authorised.
LOEB OUT, McRAE IN - Colin McRae and Nicky Grist have stepped in to replace Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena in Turkey. The 1995 World Champion's most recent WRC appearance dates back to the 2005 Rally Australia when he figured as high as 2nd overall before being sidelined by a mechanical problem. Colin has taken part in two test sessions in Scotland to familiarise himself with both the 2006-specification Xsara WRC and BFGoodrich's range of gravel tyres. The Scot has already competed in BFGoodrich colours with Nissan on the Dakar Rally and in a Subaru at the recent X-Games in Los Angeles.
JWRC - The Rally of Turkey is the penultimate qualifying round of the BFGoodrich-backed 2006 Junior World Rally Championship. The series is currently topped by the 2004 JWRC champ P-G. Andersson (Suzuki) who has a slender one-point cushion over Renault driver and fellow Swede Patrick Sandell. Despite two wins to his name, Suzuki's Guy Wilks is only 3rd, seven points behind the leader. The JWRC regulations do not permit the use of mousse run-flat systems. The Turkish round promises to be the roughest of the year for the JWRC runners.
RALLYE DES PHARAONS - BFGoodrich tyres are also currently competing in Egypt's Rallye des Pharaons, the penultimate round of the 2006 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup. South Africa's Giniel de Villiers (VW Touareg/BFGoodrich) provisionally tops the 2006 standings.
BAJA 1000 - Skoda Red Bull Team Manager Armin Schwarz will compete in the forthcoming Baja 1000 in Mexico driving a BFGoodrich-shod buggy. BFGoodrich tyres have claimed 20 consecutive wins in America's foremost off-road competition.