Out of the cauldron. and into the cauldron! The Cyprus Rally marks the end of the first half of the 2003 World Rally Championship. Underlining the point, it coincides exactly with the summer solstice. A fitting symbol for an event which, like...
Out of the cauldron. and into the cauldron!
The Cyprus Rally marks the end of the first half of the 2003 World Rally Championship. Underlining the point, it coincides exactly with the summer solstice. A fitting symbol for an event which, like the Acropolis Rally, has every chance of taking place in scorching sunshine! Indeed, weather forecasters are predicting even higher temperatures in the eastern Mediterranean than those recorded not so long ago in Greece. For Michelin, who came away from Lamia with its sixth success and fifth one-two from six rounds this season, the challenge in Cyprus will be similar, but not identical, to that of the Acropolis.
Fiercely disputed rallies, drama and a tremendous battle for supremacy between no fewer than four manufacturers. What a season this is turning out to be! The win of Markko Märtin and the new Focus WRC in Greece took the number of different makes to have won a round of the 2003 championship to three (Citroën-Michelin, Peugeot-Michelin, Ford-Michelin) and the number of different drivers to four (Sébastien Loeb, Marcus Grönholm, Carlos Sainz, Markko Märtin) from the half dozen rounds organised to date.
These six wins for Michelin have been scored on surfaces varying from wintry asphalt of Monte Carlo and the ice of Sweden to the gravel boulevards of New Zealand and the punishing terrains of Turkey, Argentina and, more recently, Greece. But before the season moves on to the series of asphalt and smooth gravel sprints that are a hallmark of the season's second half, competitors continue their mini Mediterranean tour this weekend with the Cyprus Rally.
Twistier and therefore slower than their Acropolis counterparts, the Cypriot stages are equally demanding on tyres. And while Michelin's partners will essentially be using the same family of products that took the laurels in the cauldron of Greece, the keys to success here will be first class traction and resistance to wear, the very same qualities that contributed to Michelin's two wins from the three Cyprus Rallies that have counted towards the World Championship since 2000...
On the technical front
Making torque talk. Less than two weeks after the Acropolis Rally, the WRC stays in the heat but moves on to significantly slower stages. For the tyres, Cyprus is an even more demanding terrain where drivers work much more in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears ratios as they re-accelerate out of the countless tight corners. This makes it far more difficult for them to control the delivery of torque to the tyres and so the phenomenon of wheelspin - one of the principal causes of wear - is exacerbated.
A wheelspin'ometer in the cockpit?. To make sure they don't ask too much of their engines, drivers have a rev-counter fitted in their line of sight. And should they ever get carried away, they have a rev-limiter that cuts in. However, there is still no such thing as a wheelspin'ometre on the dashboard and, to combat wear, drivers can only rely on their instinct to find the ideal pace that keeps their tyres competitive all the way to the end of the longest groups of stages (58.60km in Cyprus, i.e. around an hour of competition).
Breaking the vicious circle. It's a common belief that wear can be combated by using a harder compound. Yet given the torque performance of today's cars, a harder compound can, on the contrary, actually amplify the phenomenon of wheelspin. and therefore cause even more wear! It is also understandable that drivers who they aren't going quickly enough can be tempted to push harder. but this risks generating extra wear, etc, etc. The solution to prevent or break this vicious circle resides in the elaboration of specific compounds combined with careful fine-tuning of the tyre/differentials/suspension package. And also in the tyre management skills of individual drivers. Greece is a different challenge to Cyprus but, in the fight against wear, even with those drivers who have the biggest propensity to make significant demands of their rubber, the progress achieved by Michelin in this domain visibly paid dividend on the Acropolis Rally.
A single choice. For the first time since Turkey, all Michelin's partners have nominated the two tyre types for Cyprus, namely the Michelin GW for clear, hard surfaces and the Michelin Z for softer ground or stages with a top coating of gravel, sand or stones. Given that the Michelin GW19 selected by Citroën for the Acropolis has been developed specifically for clear, fast terrain, this new product is not suited to the stages used in the Cyprus Rally, the slowest round of the championship.
A single spare. Although the Acropolis Rally regulations permit two spare wheels to be carried, no such a measure has ever been accepted for Cyprus. In such extreme conditions, fitting a new tyre on just one corner can unbalance the car.
The 2004 regulations. The new regulations concerning tyres from 2004 (aimed at achieving a compromise between choice and quantity) should be published during Cyprus Rally week. Don't hesitate to contact Michelin Competition's management staff during the event to help decode these new measures...
Michelin has a total staff of 24 in Cyprus. 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 Cyprus.
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.