Michelin's rally World Champions visit Clermont-Ferrand Reigning World Rally Champions SÃ©bastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena took time out of their busy pre-Monte Carlo schedule today (Jan 7) to visit their tyre partner Michelin in...
Michelin's rally World Champions visit Clermont-Ferrand
Reigning World Rally Champions Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena took time out of their busy pre-Monte Carlo schedule today (Jan 7) to visit their tyre partner Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand where the Citroën pair was able to meet staff and tour the facilities of the French firm.
Just two weeks before the 2005 WRC season is due to kick off with the celebrated Monte Carlo Rally (Jan 21-23), the reigning champions were in Clermont-Ferrand today for a courtesy visit to Michelin personnel at the firm's headquarters. The day's programme featured a tour of Michelin's factories, offices and research facilities, a lap of honour through the streets of the French city and a demonstration drive round Michelin's testing ground with the Citroën Xsara WRC.
Upon their arrival at Clermont-Auvergne airport, Sébastien and Daniel Elena were greeted by Michelin Competition's Deputy Director Frédéric Henry- Biabaud before going on to view the production of WRC gravel tyres at the firm's Cataroux plant. Here, staff profited from the occasion to present Loeb and Elena with the Michelin Hat-trick Trophy* in recognition of their three consecutive wins in the Deutschland Rally (2002, 2003, 2004).
A question and answer session followed at the firm's headquarters in the presence of Michelin's Managing Partner René Zingraff. Teleconferencing facilities enabled personnel from the Milan factory to play an active part in this debate which was also broadcast live at the Michelin Forum.
Next on the schedule was a parade run during which Sébastien and Daniel drove the Citroën Xsara WRC through the streets of Clermont-Ferrand in front of some 10,000 spectators, while the afternoon saw Sébastien show off his talent with the car round one of Michelin's test tracks at its Technology Centre in Ladoux before taking time to chat with staff and media.
"It's my first visit to Clermont-Ferrand and I've thoroughly enjoyed the day," enthused Sébastien Loeb before flying back to Paris. "Only yesterday I was doing pre-Monte Carlo Rally tyre testing work with Michelin and today I have been able to see at first hand how they are made. Watching competition tyres take form is extremely interesting, especially since the fact that we compete on Michelin rubber was a key parameter in our title - and that of Citroën - in 2004. Since this morning, we've also signed an incredible number of autographs. The staff at Michelin clearly know their motor sport and it was so nice to spend time with them today."
The collaboration between Citroën and Michelin in rallying dates back to 1963 when the French carmaker approached the firm with a view to developing a specific product for the Citroën DS and to assist with its rally programme. This association is taken as the formal debut of Michelin's presence in the sport, a decade prior to the creation of the World Championship in 1973. Since then, this historic partnership has reaped a long list of titles and wins, both in rally-raids (five FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup titles) and in the World Rally Championship (fifteen wins, two Manufacturers' titles and one Drivers' title).
(*) Since 2001, the Michelin Hat-trick Trophy - a specially-commissioned sculpture made from local volcanic rock - is awarded to drivers who succeed in winning the same World Rally Championship event on Michelin tyres three years running.