WRC

Rally Sardinia: BFGoodrich preview

BFGoodrich playing away from home! Sardinia, the Mediterranean's second largest island in terms of surface area, will host the Italian round of this year's World Rally Championship. Which means BFGoodrich will be on the territory of its direct...

BFGoodrich playing away from home!

Sardinia, the Mediterranean's second largest island in terms of surface area, will host the Italian round of this year's World Rally Championship. Which means BFGoodrich will be on the territory of its direct rival Pirelli as it bids to add a seventh win to its 2006 record and do all it can to take its works and privateer partners to the most convincing result possible.

Despite wins on the first two loose surface rounds of the current season with Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Citroen Xsara WRC) in Mexico and Argentina, BFGoodrich will not start the Rally d.Italia-Sardegna as favourites. For Pirelli will be on home ground in Sardinia and consequently tough to beat.

"Two weeks ago in Argentina, Petter Solberg wasn't able to profit fully from his good road position to pull clear during the opening leg. He's not going to want to throw that chance away again," warns BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard. "We haven't forgotten the big gap he pulled out over the first stages in Sardinia two years ago."

In response to this very real threat, BFGoodrich drivers will have a joker to play in Italy. "We call it a 'joker' because although testing went very well it doesn't yet replace an existing tyre," reveals Aime Chatard. "You have always got to be careful not to be lured into a false sense of security when testing in rallying. For one thing, the drivers know their test bases increasingly well and that can false the benchmarking process of tested tyres. Also, unlike in circuit races, the drivers don't go over the same roads on the event itself, so the challenge is to extrapolate the results obtained in testing for as yet unknown territory, especially when you're talking about extremely responsive tyres."

Even so, the latest 'joker' tyre produced a worthwhile gain in terms of steering precision through medium and high-speed corners. The work of BFGoodrich's engineers essentially focused on the construction of the tyre to permit it to respond even more quickly and accurately to steering corrections at the wheel. "The drivers are more and more demanding and want increasingly reactive tyres, even on the loose. Gravel rally tyres are becoming more and more like racing tyres."

Today, a driver wants to be able correct his line with a 10 turn of the steering-wheel instead of 20 previously. The tyres therefore need to respond faster than ever (less than a tenth of a second) and with pinpoint precision too: a 10 turn of the steering-wheel must produce a 10 turn on the ground. No more, no less.

"The driver's eye is as precise as a laser beam and the tyre needs to respond as accurately as possible to take the line the driver wants. We haven't reached perfection yet, but the engineers at BFGoodrich are on the right track," believes Aime Chatard.

THE RALLY D.ITALIA-SARDEGNA. SEEN BY MIKKO HIRVONEN (Ford/BFGoodrich)
"The important thing in Sardinia is endurance. Once the roads have cleaned then the surface is very hard. And we expect high temperatures so a combination of the two demands tyres with good durability. The stages are a mix of narrow, twisty roads and faster, more flowing stages. On the slower tests, a softer set-up is required, while on the faster stages we look for a stiffer set-up so it is really a mixture of everything. We have some new tyres which worked well during our test in Sardinia. I'm confident"

-bfg

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb
Teams Citroën World Rally Team