Acropolis Rally: Michelin preview

Mediterranean Trilogy, Episode 3: Michelin in Olympic country After visits to Cyprus and Turkey, the final encounter of the Mediterranean trilogy takes rallying's gods to Greece for the legendary Acropolis Rally. In association with...

Mediterranean Trilogy, Episode 3:

Michelin in Olympic country After visits to Cyprus and Turkey, the final encounter of the Mediterranean trilogy takes rallying's gods to Greece for the legendary Acropolis Rally. In association with Sebastien Loeb and Citroen, Michelin has won the last four rounds of the WRC (New Zealand, Sardinia, Cyprus and Turkey) and is hoping to extend this outstanding run over the mountain tracks of central Greece. For many years, the Acropolis was considered to be one of the championship's most demanding challenges, a sort of European version of the celebrated Safari Rally. Previously, this punishing marathon traversed Greece from north to south, from the celebrated Meteor Mountains to the Peloponnesus via some of the country's most notorious, cut up, rocky tracks where punctures were not uncommon.

It was on the 1987 Acropolis Rally that Michelin launched its revolutionary ATS system (Appui Temporaire Souple, or Temporary Flexible Support) which permitted drivers to continue at rally speeds despite suffering a flat. The system prompted a radical shift in driving styles and drivers no longer hesitate to cut corners. Often, they practically don't even notice punctures and it is not by any means rare for them to post fastest times with a flat! Today's Acropolis Rally is focused on the town of Lamia, some 200 km north of Athens, while competitive action essentially takes place in the Mount Parnassus region.

"From the tyre point of view, this event is no longer the hardest-wearing rally of the championship. In fact just one stage, run twice (SS4 & 7), poses a problem as far as wear is concerned," points out Aime Chatard, Michelin Competition's Rallies Programme Manager.

Even so, it continues to be a difficult rally. It's the final rough fixture of the 2005 calendar and there is always the chance of a storm breaking out over the mountains. If that happens, the information communicated by Michelin's route observers could play a decisive role." A quarter of the total competitive distance is new this year, including the super-special organised in the Olympic Stadium in Athens. The Michelin Z BTO tyre forever Since its launch at last April's Rally New Zealand, the Michelin Z BTO has gone unbeaten and will once again be a key ally to the respective bids of Michelin's partners. The new tyre features improved lateral grip, better traction and optimised braking and has lost no time winning over a broad variety of surface types, from the flowing Kiwi stages and the narrow, sandy Sardinian roads to the punishing tracks of Cyprus and Turkey's mud-bath.

Neither the 2004 World Rally Champion and provisional leader of the 2005 Drivers' classification Sebastien Loeb, nor the two-times title-winning Citroen Xsara WRC have won the Acropolis Rally. In 2003, Loeb was eliminated by a mechanical problem in SS1 and was last year penalised by his position as first driver into the stages. As leader of the 2005 championship, Loeb will again be first on the road on the Friday during which time he will sweep a clear line for those further down the order.

His team-mate Carlos Sainz has won this event on three occasions, including the first WRC success of his career fifteen years ago. Meanwhile, Michelin owes its Acropolis wins of the past ten years to its partner Ford. This year, the Ford Focus RS WRCs will be out in force; in addition to the works cars of Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta, Henning Solberg, Antony Warmbold and Finland's Mikko Hirvonen (who finished Leg 1 in Sardinia in 3rd position driving a privately-entered Ford-Michelin) will also be flying the Blue Oval's colours.


Present in the World Rally Championship since the creation of the series in 1973, the Michelin Group is to continue in this sport via its brand BFGoodrich. Founded in 1870 by Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, the BFGoodrich brand has flown the colours of the Michelin Group on four wheels in the Dakar Rally and in the Cross Country World Cup since 1998. From 2006, BFGoodrich will spearhead Michelin's presence in rallying, both in the WRC and on the Dakar, while the Michelin brand will continue to compete in Formula 1 and Endurance racing.

"BFGoodrich's arrival in the WRC is part of the Group's policy," declares Frederic Henry- Biabaud, Deputy Director of Michelin Competition. "Our objective is to bring the BFGoodrich brand up to second place in Group terms and the worldwide notoriety of the World Rally Championship stands out as a first class means of helping to achieve that."

In 2004, BFGoodrich tyres won 75% of the Cross Country world calendar and this year they have already won the Dakar with Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi), the Por Las Pampas Rally in South America with Bruno Saby (Volkswagen), the Tunisia Rally with Luc Alphand (Mitsubishi) and in Morocco (again with Bruno Saby). The month of June also saw BFGoodrich celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its first win in the American Baja.

BFGoodrich's WRC tyres will be developed and produced in Clermont-Ferrand, France, where the majority of the Group's competition tyres are designed. BFGoodrich: key dates 1903: the first car to cross the USA was equipped with BFGoodrich tyres 1927: Lindbergh's Spirit of St Louis plane was equipped with BFGoodrich tyres 1947: BFGoodrich launches the first tubeless tyre 1977: BFGoodrich tyres equip the Columbia Space Shuttle.


High speed films reveal that during particularly heavy landings or knocks (which happens two or three times every stage in Greece) the tyre is totally compressed and the rim comes in contact with the ground. If the shock absorber of that wheel is on its bump stop, the load exerted on the tyre can be as high as 2½ or 3 tonnes, ten times the load for which it is designed.

40 TYRES... In Greece, Priority 1 crews may use a maximum of 40 tyres from their quotas of 70. Crews had to register their individual choices with the FIA by June 15th at the latest.

FOUR MORE... Michelin, its rival tyre firm in the WRC and the FIA have agreed that four extra gravel tyres may be made available to their respective crews for the asphalt super- special which is organised in the Athens Olympic Stadium. Michelin hasn't carried out any specific development work on these tyres which will be allocated at random by the FIA from ten of the tyres figuring on each driver's individual list.

TWO SPARES... The Acropolis Rally is the only WRC round which permits cars to carry two spare wheels. This measure dates back to before the inclusion of Cyprus, Sardinia and Turkey in the World Championship, even though these three newcomers are every bit as rough as Greece!

MICHELIN Z BTO... As was the case in New Zealand, Sardinia, Cyprus and Turkey, Michelin's drivers have nominated the Michelin Z BTO for the Greece. Three compounds will be available – soft (Z8), medium (Z9) and hard (Z9+) – as well as two different widths – '17' (normal) and '19' (wide).


Citroen After finishing his WRC comeback outing in Turkey in 4th place, Carlos Sainz will be back behind the wheel of the Citroen Xsara WRC for his sixteenth Acropolis Rally start. Sainz has won this rally three times. The first time was in 1990 when he claimed his maiden WRC win. Ford Only Ford has won the Acropolis Rally on Michelin tyres in the past ten years. Skoda For the first time this season, Skoda-Michelin will be present with three works Fabia WRCs, for Armin Schwarz, Janne Tuohino and Jani Paasonen. Paasonen hasn't competed since the Rally Mexico.


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Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Sébastien Loeb , Jani Paasonen , Armin Schwarz , Luc Alphand , Stéphane Peterhansel , Mikko Hirvonen , Toni Gardemeister , Roman Kresta , Bruno Saby , Henning Solberg , Janne Tuohino , Antony Warmbold
Teams Citroën World Rally Team