A new BFGoodrich tyre Despite the fact that BFGoodrich will have no rivals in Sardinia since all the WRC cars entered for the season's seventh round will be running on its tyres, the development and technical staff of the 2006...
A new BFGoodrich tyre
Despite the fact that BFGoodrich will have no rivals in Sardinia since all the WRC cars entered for the season's seventh round will be running on its tyres, the development and technical staff of the 2006 championship-winning brand have no intention of resting on their laurels and have come out with a new evolution of the g-Force Gravel for the Italian event's hard-wearing stages.
Canadian research reveals that Sardinia has a particularly high population of over-110-year old men. The jury is still out, however, about whether this is due to genetic factors, diet or healthy mountain air.
In contrast to the propensity of the Mediterranean island's males to age in peace, rally tyres tend to have an ephemeral existence there. Indeed, field studies carried out in the north-east corner of Sardinia over the past three years show that the life expectancy of even the most resilient rally tyres barely exceeds 80km of stages. BFGoodrich's researchers, however, may now well have come up with the answer...
Sardinia features a wide range of surface types, a particularity that has led teams to choose the island for much of their pre-event testing for overseas rallies. The tracks found in the Costa Smeralda region -- home of the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna -- are largely covered in a deep, sandy top-coating, yet the rocks that form the their foundation -- and which, like the islanders, are amongst the oldest in Europe! -- are extremely hard and abrasive. Tyre specialists have consequently turned their attention during the past three years to solving a key equation with two unknowns: how to cut through the soft top-surface for enhanced grip and precision without detracting from durability? BFGoodrich tyres have already shown their potential on this event by monopolising the podium in 2006.
Even so, in their quest for perfection, the firm's developers have ceaselessly sought to improve their products and, to this end, worked over the winter on an 'evolution' of the '9+' g-Force Gravel featuring a new extra-hard compound. Following testing with the factory teams, this tyre is believed to be 20% stronger for the same level of performance.
"Despite the fact that we are in a position where we are supplying all the top teams this year, there is no question of us scaling down our efforts to improve the BFGoodrich range," stresses BFGoodrich's Rally programme Manager Matthieu Bonardel. "Our partners would not understand such a laid-back approach from us. Whatever the level, and whatever the discipline in which it competes -- from rallying and rally-raids to endurance and MotoGP -- it is not the Group's style to rest on its laurels.
"A new gravel construction made its debut recently in Mexico, and this weekend sees the introduction of a new, 'extra-hard' compound for the g-Force Gravel. Just one tread pattern is authorised for this hardwearing rally, so we had to stick to the size and pattern of the conventional g-Force Gravel. We consequently focused our efforts on enhancing the durability of its compound durability without detracting from its performance. The drivers seemed to like the new g-Force Gravel 10 in testing and we hope their first impressions will be backed up during the rally."
QUOTAS. Priority drivers have a maximum quota of 50 tyres, of which they will be able to use a maximum 33 (rally + shakedown). These tyres were registered with the FIA on May 10. This is the smallest permitted quantity for any rally this season.
NEW STAGES. A high proportion of this year's route is new, with 53km of new stages or new portions for Leg 1. Leg 3 is also all new with three short stages to be covered twice each with the same tyres. Drivers will then proceed directly to the podium ceremony in Porto Cervo.
WITHDRAWALS. Notable withdrawals for the event are Italy's Gigi Galli (Citroen Xsara WRC) and Belgium's Francois Duval (Skoda Fabia WRC).
NEW AT MUNCHI'S. From the Italian round on, Juan Pablo Raies has handed over his Ford Focus WRC06 to fellow countryman Federico Villagra, Group N winner in Argentina.
THREE IN A ROW? As in Argentina a fortnight ago, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen C4/BFGoodrich) stands to make it three wins in a row in Sardinia. To pull that off he will first have to beat the likes of Marcus Gronholm (who led before retiring in 2006), Petter Solberg (winner in 2004) and Mikko Hirvonen.
FIA JUNIORS. A close fight is on the cards in the JRC category in Sardinia which all the front-runners have nominated. P-G. Andersson's two wins have promoted the Swede to the top of the provisional standings ahead of Urmo Aava. Crews will have a total quota of 20 tyres for this event and are permitted to carry two spares if they wish.