Acropolis: Michelin preview

No other tyre manufacturer can claim to be involved in so many forms of world class motor sport as Michelin. For proof, there's no need to look any further than the June diaries of the men from Clermont-Ferrand: in the space of just 20 days, the...

No other tyre manufacturer can claim to be involved in so many forms of world class motor sport as Michelin. For proof, there's no need to look any further than the June diaries of the men from Clermont-Ferrand: in the space of just 20 days, the firm's competition department will serve at no fewer than eight premier events in seven countries! In addition to the WRC squad's presence in Greece (June 6th-8th) and Cyprus (20th-22nd), its MotoGP specialists will be in Italy on the 8th before moving on to Catalonia a week later, the 15th. The same weekend sees their Superbike World Championship colleagues travel to Great Britain (with Imola programmed the following week!), while the F1 staff will be in Montreal for the Canadian GP! And as if that wasn't sufficient, another legendary race takes place on June 14th- 15th: the Le Mans 24 Hours, where Bibendum will be aiming for a sixth consecutive win. Busy? Did somebody say busy?

This action-packed three-week period begins with a motor sport classic, the Acropolis Rally, one of the most punishing events of the WRC calendar. If not the most punishing, following the loss of the Kenyan Safari.

The drivers are only too familiar with the menu that awaits them in Greece: boulder-strewn, abrasive mountain tracks and searing heat, occasionally dampened some years by violent rainstorms...

In these conditions, the intensity of the battle at the sharp end promises to reach new heights if last March's showdown over similar terrain in Turkey is anything to go by where three different manufacturers shared the finish podium. More recently still in Argentina, three drivers representing three different makes were in with a real chance of taking the laurels going into the final day!

With Greece and Cyprus following on from each other in such quick succession as the season nears its mid-point, it goes without saying that neither the drivers nor the teams can afford to take their eye off the ball. And the same goes for Michelin who, to maximise its chances of extending its unbeaten run since the start of the season, hasn't eased up the development of its WRC range in the slightest.

For the Acropolis, this work includes the introduction of a new, wider option of the Michelin GW which contributed to the success of Peugeot and Marcus Grönholm at the time of its launch in Cyprus in 2002. Meanwhile, all the other products in its range for the Greek classic have been painstakingly optimised.

Needless to say, a win in the homeland of the Olympic Games would be the perfect way to kick off the multi-discipline marathon that awaits Michelin Competition over the busy month ahead!

New in Greece: the Michelin GW19. A year after the successful introduction of the Michelin GW on the 2002 Cyprus Rally, this weekend's Acropolis Rally sees the launch of a new, wider development of the same product.

This new tyre, which features a near-identical compact pattern to that of the GW '17' (the tread blocks are just slightly more siped), provides a bigger contact patch (an increase of approximately 5%) which means more rubber is in direct contact with the ground for enhanced grip and traction over clear ground.

On stages with a certain amount of surface 'pollution' (gravel, stones), drivers will have to adapt to a slight sensation of lack of precision.

Greek choices. All Michelin's WRC partners were given the opportunity to evaluate the new Michelin GW19 before finalising their respective choices of the two tyre types they will use on the Acropolis Rally and Citroën has nominated it for Greece following rigorous testing in Spain with Colin McRae.

Citroën's final choice is the new Michelin GW19 combined with the more familiar Michelin Z.

Ford, Hyundai, Peugeot and Skoda have elected to use the Michelin Z plus the Michelin GW17.

A question of style. Of all the forms of world class motor sport in which Michelin is involved, rallying is incontestably the one in which the difference in the rate of tyre wear resulting from different driving styles is the most apparent. Indeed, the difference between two drivers at the wheel of identical cars can amount to as much as 30%.

It is clearly important therefore that this parameter is taken into account when choosing the most suitable compound for a given group of stages. Yet switching to a harder rubber is not necessarily the ideal solution, especially in conditions where wheel-spin is a threat.

On the contrary, a harder choice could effectively result in further wheel- spin, with the tyre revolving as much as 25% more over the full stage distance, a phenomenon that clearly produces extra wear.

Flashback. It was in Greece that Michelin's ATS system was employed on an event for the very first time. in 1987.

<pre> |Prevail|Type of tyre |Dimensi|Technical description | |ing |theoretically |on* | | |conditi|the most suited | | | |ons | | | | |Clear, |Michelin GW17 |17/65x1|Winner out-of-the-box in Cyprus in | |hard | |5 |2002 (with Marcus Grönholm and the | |surface| | |Peugeot 206 WRC), this product is | |s. | | |intended for especially for | | | | |hardwearing surfaces. | | | | |Its pattern is designed to limit the | | | | |constraints on the tread blocks by | | | | |optimising the way they are spread out| | | | |across each block edge. | |Clear, |Michelin GW19 |19/65x1|NEW: With a nearly identical compact | |hard | |5 |pattern to that of the Michelin GW17 | |surface| | |(the tread blocks are slightly more | |s. | | |siped), this new product is notably | | | | |wider in order to obtain a bigger | | | | |contact patch (+5% approximately) for | | | | |enhanced grip and traction. | | | | |Especially suited to clean, fast | | | | |stages. | |Clear, |Michelin Z |17/65x1|The Michelin Z's rigid tread blocks | |hard | |5 |are designed to limit mobility on | |ground | | |aggressive stage surfaces. | |or | | |Its more open tread pattern helps | |loose | | |penetrate the loose top-layer of the | |surface| | |stage surface with a view to | |s | | |optimising contact with the firmer | | | | |ground underneath. | </pre>

Michelin has a total staff of 28 in Greece. The total number of covers available for Michelin's WRC partners is 4,240 shipped out by boat or carried in 6 semi-trailer workshops. All are fitted with Michelin's ATS system (Appui Temporaire Souple). These figures do not include those teams supplied and serviced by Michelin Greece, nor those entered in the FIA Junior World Championship.

The tread patterns of all these products can be fine-tuned to match the conditions on the day thanks to the technique of re-cutting. They are all available in a choice of compounds according to ground temperature and/or the amount of dampness in the stage.

(*) Width (cm) / exterior diameter (cm) x interior diameter (inches)

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Marcus Gronholm
Teams Citroën World Rally Team