During the recent Rally Japan, a Michelin Z BTO tyre was stolen from the service facilities of one of Michelin's official partners in the Obihiro service park during the night of Saturday October 1st / Sunday October 2nd 2005.
Michelin suffered another theft earlier in the year when a Superbike motorbike tyre was taken at the Irish circuit of Mondello Park following a break-in.
The Michelin Group considers acts of this sort to be extremely serious and unreservedly condemns such acts of industrial and technological espionage.
The Michelin Z BTO tyre - which made its debut at last April's Rally New Zealand before going on to win six gravel rallies in a row - played a major role in Sebastien Loeb'ssecond world title.
Everyone will appreciate the significant means and expertise that went into producing such a competitive tyre. Harmoniously blending the 150 different ingredients that go into the Michelin Z BTO called for considerable investment from Michelin's engineers in terms of research and calculation work.
Says Aime Chatard, Manager of Michelin Competition's Rallies Programme: "It is clear that a few hours of detailed analysis of the BTO (analysis of the 'footprint', longitudinal and lateral force measurements, examination of the casing fibres and compound, etc.) will reveal all its secrets. Furthermore, this tyre - serial number 00330539 - was mounted on a rim and equipped with ATS mousse. The whole package is therefore a mine of information."
Michelin will consequently be keeping a careful eye open in case a BTO clone turns up in the World Rally Championship in the course of the next twelve months and will keep the sport's governing body informed.
Michelin will not be able to forbid the use of such a tyre, but it will request that a thorough analysis is made of such a clone, the results of which will then be compared with the figures relating to the benchmark BTO. If it is proved that the tyre has been copied, the information will be made available to all the parties involved in the World Rally Championship.
Michelin's engineers and technicians, who worked extremely hard to develop theMichelin Z BTO, still shared Sebastien Loeb 'sand the Citroen team's joy at the end ofRally Japan despite the bitter disappointment that could be read in their eyes that Sunday afternoon.