IRC: BFGoodrich Belgium Rally preview

BFGoodrich in the flatlands of Flanders The third round of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge takes crews to Flanders for the Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally. Formerly known as the 24 Heures d'Ypres, this event has long been one of the ...

BFGoodrich in the flatlands of Flanders

The third round of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge takes crews to Flanders for the Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally. Formerly known as the 24 Heures d'Ypres, this event has long been one of the flagship fixtures of the European Rally Championship and first featured in the IRC calendar in 2007. In addition to its huge popularity, its stages are extremely specific, with a cocktail of narrow, slippery roads that often combine with unsettled weather to make tyre choice particularly difficult, and even a gamble at times. Meanwhile, Patrick Snijers will make his 30th Rallye d'Ypres appearance in the colours of the BFGoodrich Drivers Team.

Question: what is an IRC rally? Answer: an event based on timed stages with 20 potential winners at the start and one winner at the finish: Luca Rossetti!

It was exactly one year ago, on the celebrated marketplace of Ypres, that Luca Rossetti and his codriver Matteo Chiarcossi sprang to international acclaim thanks to a surprise win at the wheel of their Peugeot/BFGoodrich which saw them notch up their first major victory outside of Italy.

Since that day, the Italian pair has enjoyed an unbeaten record in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, because they went on to claim the 2007 Rally Sanremo, as well as the first two rounds of the 2008 series. More impressive still, Luca and Matteo top no fewer than three different competitions at the moment: the IRC, the European Rally Championship and the Italian Rally Championship!

This year sees Luca Rossetti return to the 'City of Cats' as one of the favourites for the 44th Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally, and he brings with him the advantage of having already contested four asphalt rounds since March in the Italian Rally Championship.

Indeed, the Rallye d'Ypres is the first asphalt encounter of the 2008 IRC and, apart from the odd test session here and there, it has been many months since most of his main rivals last competed on this type of surface.

The Belgian classic will mark BFGoodrich's return to asphalt, too, following the firm's score of four sealed surface wins from four in last year's IRC. "The g-Force Profiler has emerged as a benchmark tyre on today's rally scene," says Jacques Morelli, the man in charge of BFGoodrich's IRC programme. "It has already tasted success in several national championships, including wins in Italy and in Spain on S2000 cars, and in France and Ireland on WRC machines. We have profited from these national events, in particular the Irish championship, to extend our range with the development of a new product (g-Force Profiler M01): an intermediate that can be 're-cut' to become a full rain tyre. It consequently covers a broad spectrum of conditions, ranging from slightly damp to very wet. We will have it in Ypres for our partners alongside the W00 wet weather tyre and the A02 and A10 dry weather tyres."

This close to the North Sea, the conditions can effectively change quite quickly. And this in turn can makes tyre choices -- which are made at the service park in Ypres for groups of up to four stages at a time, some of which can take place up to two hours later -- something of a brainteaser.

Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally

g-Force Profiler A02
Size : 225/40-18
Compound : soft
Use : dry or damp asphalt, low temperatures

g-Force Profiler A10
Size : 225/40-18
Compound : hard
Use : dry asphalt, medium to high temperatures

g-Force Profiler M01
Size : 225/40-18
Compound : soft
Use : damp or wet asphalt

g-Force Profiler W00
Size : 225/40-18
Compound : soft
Use : damp or wet asphalt


To cater for Flanders' potentially fickle weather, BFGoodrich will have approximately 1,400 tyres for its partners contesting the Rallye d'Ypres. A staff of three technicians will attend the event to advise and help BFGoodrich's partner teams in the domains of tyre choice and 'cutting' techniques. In addition to Peugeot and Abarth, its partners in Ypres will include the Volkswagen Polo S2000 which is poised to make its 2008 IRC debut on the Belgian event.

Wear is not that big a problem on the asphalt stages of the Rallye d'Ypres. However, tyres need to be particularly effective when it comes to braking and traction performance. If the conditions are dry and the temperatures don't climb too high, the drivers will probably favour soft compounds. If the weather is wet, they will be able to choose between a 're-cut' dry weather tyre, an intermediate tyre or a rain tyre.

When it comes to choosing tyres, the format of today's rallies means that drivers need to reason in terms of groups of three or even four stages, rather than just one stage at a time. Yet the same group of stages can feature a mixture of wet and dry portions, making it vital to try to find the ideal compromise.

Drivers are authorised to carry two spares, which means they can carry two tyres of an alternative type to cater for the eventuality of a shower breaking out between two stages. Mixing dry and wet weather tyres in this way is not unusual on the Rallye d'Ypres.

The organizers have reintroduced the notorious Mont Kemmel stage, which takes its name from Flanders' highest peak which culminates at an altitude of 156 metres. It is also known for its steep downhill section which is cobbled over a distance of several hundred metres and which has frequently played a decisive role in the outcome of the Rallye d'Ypres and the Gand- Wevelgem cycle race. In the early 80s, up to 14,000 spectators flocked to the Mont Kemmel stage alone.

The 1994 European Champion and seven-time Belgian Champion Patrick Snijers was selected by a panel of national media to fly the colours of the BFGoodrich Drivers Team in a Peugeot 207 S2000 on his home fixture. Snijers will be looking to profit from his 30th participation on the event to become the first driver to win the Rallye d'Ypres five times, or else secure a 12th podium finish.

The next round of the IRC takes competitors to Russia. For the gravel stages of this event, BFGoodrich will have a new g-Force Gravel tyre which is a development based on recent evolutions seen in Portugal, but with a new construction. The tyre was tested in the south of France.

This year again, the Belgium Ypres Westhoek Rally boasts an exceptional entry, including 15 BFGoodrichequipped S2000 cars. Peugeot/BFGoodrich's ranks feature Rossetti (four IRC wins), Vouilloz (2007 IRC runner-up), Loix (four Ypres wins), Tirabassi (2003 Junior World Champion), Snijers, Kopecky (3rd in the championship) and Solowow (2nd in the European Championship). The Abarth/BFGoodrichs clan includes Basso (winner of the 2006 Rallye d'Ypres and European Champion), Alen, Fontana, Isik and Travaglia (respectively 3rd, 4th and 5th in the 2008 European Championship). Last but not least, representing Volkswagen will be Bernd Casier and Raphael Auquier, two former BFGoodrich runners in the WRC. The fight with the 2002 Junior World Champion Dani Sola and the new MG S2000 driven by Mark Higgins promises to be extremely fierce.

-credit: bfg

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Mark Higgins , Luca Rossetti