WRC

Safari Rally Michelin final report

For the second time in his career, Tommi Mäkinen has won Kenya's celebrated Safari Rally. The Mitsubishi-Michelin driver took command after the second 'competitive section' and Fthen proceeded to control from in front all the way to the flag.

For the second time in his career, Tommi Mäkinen has won Kenya's celebrated Safari Rally.

The Mitsubishi-Michelin driver took command after the second 'competitive section' and Fthen proceeded to control from in front all the way to the flag. Second for Peugeot's Harri Rovanperä and Skoda driver Armin Schwarz ensured an all-Michelin podium at the end of the 3,000 km marathon, a tremendous reward for the work put in by the firm's development team to produce a Safari tyre that offered its partners a winning blend of performance and strength over the World Championship's most punishing terrain.

After three days of competition over some of the planet's roughest roads, Tommi Mäkinen was at last able to pop the champagne corks in Nairobi today to celebrate the second Safari Rally win of his career. As in 1996, the year of his maiden Safari victory, the Finn once again achieved his success at the wheel of a Michelin-shod Mitsubishi, the driver/car/tyre combination enjoying a practically trouble-free run this time to win the event by a convincing margin of more than 12 minutes.

Mäkinen was swift to endorse the role that his tyres have played in the weekend's result and, indeed, the first three cars in the final classification were running on the French firm's products which have now won the African classic seven times in the last ten years. "We just didn't have to think about the tyres at all thanks to the excellent work put in by Michelin," said the Finn after the finish.

The only mechanical problems he in fact encountered during the gruelling marathon were a broken prop-shaft on Day 2 and a turbo that needed replacing prior to the start of Sunday's competitive action. "We are delighted that Tommi, like the rest of the Michelin runners, enjoyed a Safari Rally without any major suspension-related incidents and without hardly any time-consuming punctures. I believe that says volumes for the hard work that our technicians and the engineers of our manufacturer-partners put in prior to the event to produce a coherent, competitive package that has allowed the strains and stresses produced by the inevitable knocks to be soaked up in an extremely efficient manner," said Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin's competitions director.

"For sure, my technical team can be proud of the way it has worked to correct the shortcomings that were highlighted here last February. But my biggest satisfaction is having provided the service and level of response that our partners have come to expect from our collaboration. There are still some areas in which we can progress together and our priority will of course now be to focus on these in preparation for next year's event."

For the record, with six rounds of the 2001 season remaining, Mäkinen's success in Kenya puts the four- times World Champion ten points clear at the top of the provisional points table, while Mitsubishi has regained the upper hand in the Manufacturers' standings. The result also takes the Finn's score to 23 wins since the start of his career, making him the most successful rally driver ever (equal with Carlos Sainz, Colin McRae and Juha Kankkunen).

Prior to Friday's start, Peugeot made no bones of the fact that its overriding objective here this weekend was to reach the finish, although the rally began in alarming fashion when the French team lost the 206 WRC-Michelins of both Didier Auriol (accident) and Marcus Grönholm (steering damage) on Day 1. However, Harri Rovanperä's prudent approach ended up paying dividends in the form of a valuable second place that puts a halt to the manufacturer's recent barren spell since its one-two finish in Spain last March.

The final step on the all-Michelin podium went to Armin Schwarz who kicked off the weekend with an emphatic fastest time on the very first 'competitive section' to put Skoda-Michelin in the lead of a World Championship rally for the first time in its history. The German then proceeded to pace himself with experience-bred maturity and it came as no surprise to see his perfectly timed bid secure third place on the final day. Meanwhile, teammate Bruno Thiry seemed on target for a well-earned 5th place behind Ford's François Delecour but his superhuman efforts to nurse his Octavia WRC out of CS12 without power steering were poorly recompensed when he crashed on the rally's final competitive section.

The last nominated WRC driver home was Freddy Loix. Despite a cascade of engine/turbo problems the Belgian soldiered bravely to the finish to collect 5th place. Although he finished nearly 2 hours down on his Mitsubishi-Michelin teammate, his determination was rewarded with two Manufacturers' points for his employer that could well prove valuable if the battle between the top teams proves as close as it has been in recent years.

Although the switch to a July date ensured cooler conditions than in the past, this was perhaps one of the roughest Safaris in recent history (ruts, mud, water, rocks...) and only a dozen of the original 41 starters successfully completed the distance. The first day claimed the highest number of victims amongst the front-runners with Auriol and Grönholm joined on the sidelines by Richard Burns (Subaru, suspension), Colin McRae (Ford, steering/clutch) and Toshi Arai (Subaru, suspension). Carlos Sainz (Ford) disappeared with engine troubles early on Day 2 while Subaru's Petter Solberg was eliminated by a wheel-bearing failure on the final leg.

MICHELIN'S RALLY... An all-Michelin podium in uncompromising Kenya

PIERRE DUPASQUIER... Michelin's competitions director: "We are delighted that Tommi, like the rest of the Michelin runners, enjoyed a Safari Rally without any major suspension-related incidents and without hardly any time-consuming punctures. I believe that says volumes for the close work that our technicians and the engineers of our manufacturer-partners put in prior to the event to produce a coherent, competitive package that has allowed the strains and stresses produced by the inevitable knocks to be soaked up in an extremely efficient manner.

"For sure, my technical team can be proud of the way it has worked to correct the shortcomings that were highlighted here last February. But my biggest satisfaction is having provided the service and level of response that our partners have come to expect from our collaboration. There are still some areas in which we can progress together and our priority will of course now be to focus on these in preparation for next year's event.""

FIVE FROM EIGHT, SEVEN FROM TEN... This weekend's result takes Michelin's score for 2001 to five wins from the eight rounds completed so far: on icy tarmac (Monte Carlo), snow (Sweden), mud/smooth gravel (Portugal), clear tarmac (Catalunya) and rough gravel (Safari). It also takes Michelin's success rate in Kenya to seven wins in the last ten years.

CHOICE... Michelin's three WRC partners present in Kenya (Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Skoda) all selected the new Safari-specification Michelin Z and Michelin ZA tyres for this event. Developed in close association with the firm's manufacturer-partners, these tyres differ from previous-generation products in terms of construction and materials in a bid to combine robustness with high performance while eliminating the problems traditionally associated with running the Michelin ATS system in Kenya.

Z or ZA?... The most frequently used Michelin tyre this weekend was the Michelin Z. The narrower Michelin ZA was used on those occasions where the presence of water and mud was reported to be more significant.

ATS MOUSSE... Although Mitsubishi's Tommi Mäkinen elected to cover CS3 without Michelin's mousse system, Michelin's partners used ATS on all the other stages and the system's efficiency was such that the few Michelin tyre-related incidents rarely needed the driver to change the wheel. Only Armin Schwarz (Skoda) was forced to stop and change tyres, although it is worth noting that the German set his fastest time on the punishing CS1 after the system had been activated following a rear- right puncture. Mäkinen was fastest on the following test, also in spite of a rear-right puncture.

Next round: Finland (23-26/7/2001)

-Michelin-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Armin Schwarz , Juha Kankkunen