Rally Catalunya: Michelin preview

Targeting a tenth win in Catalonia With wins in nine of the thirteen Catalunya Rallies to have counted towards the World Championship to its name so far, Michelin will not only looking to score its tenth win in Spain but also - in...

Targeting a tenth win in Catalonia

With wins in nine of the thirteen Catalunya Rallies to have counted towards the World Championship to its name so far, Michelin will not only looking to score its tenth win in Spain but also - in association with its partner Citroen - to secure its 38th title in world class rallying. On the asphalt roads of the Costa Daurada region, the two-times World Championship Sebastien Loeb and his team -mate Francois Duval will be out to wrap up Citroen -Michelin's third consecutive Manufacturers' title. Meanwhile, the mission of Ford-Michelin'sToni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta will be to help their team in its bid to finish inside the top three of the Makes' championship. In the Skoda- Michelin camp, Alexandre Bengue will be competing in the Spanish round for the first time, while his team-mate Armin Schwarz returns for the final time to the event he won outright back in 1991!

Despite eight straight Rally de Catalunya wins to its name, Michelin will be stepping into somewhat unknown territory next weekend as the 2005 calendar heads to its penultimate round.

After being focused for the past two years in the northern part of Spain, near Vic, the Rally de Catalunya organisers have this year switched to a new base south of Barcelona, near Salou. True, the Costa Daurada is not entirely unchartered terrain for Michelin'sdrivers, engineers and technicians (until 2002, one of the weekend'sthree legs always ventured this far south), but extensive roadworks have significantly modified certain classic stages of the 1990s. On top of that, some portions will be brand new while others will be run in the reverse direction. "It's basically a new rally," says Michelin Competition's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard.

That said, the profile of the stages has changed little. Armin Schwarz (Skoda-Michelin), who won this event in 1991, is one of the only factory drivers still in activity to have driven them during the nineties. The roads are wide and fast, with long sequences of flowing, high-speed corners, and we often cut the corners. Back then, the asphalt was aggressive on tyres. Today it is smoother. I expect we shall run the same set-up we had in Corsica."

New roads, a new challenge

Two days after the Tour of Corsica, which was won in style by Sebastien Loeb, the WRC regulars began two days of recce for the Rally de Catalunya, fifteenth and penultimate round of the 2005 World Rally Championship. And once they have noted the stages, they will have very little time in which to rest since the mandatory pre-event shakedown test takes place on the Thursday morning before the event itself kicks off with a 'marathon'opening leg featuring a menu of 156 km of stages, divided into six tests of between 24 and 28 km in length.

As was the case for last weekend'sRallye de France - Tour de Corse, Michelin runners will benefit from the French firm'sN FP and TA tyres for dry asphalt and damp/wet conditions respectively. Launched in 1998, this generation of asphalt tyre win every asphalt round but one since their debut, and in all conditions too: in 2000, Colin McRae (Ford-Michelin) won in appallingly wet conditions, while Markko Martin (Ford -Michelin) was first home twelve months ago when the stages were predominantly dry.

Michelin's officially-nominated WRC runners are not the only drivers to benefit from the firm's latest asphalt tyre technology. In 2004, Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin took 4th place in Catalonia with a privately-entered, Michelin-shod Subaru Impreza and even posted a fastest time in the rain.


A promising start for Sainz with VW-BFGoodrich

The Michelin Group, which has been present in the World Rally Championship since the creation of the series in 1973, is to continue its involvement in the sport through its BFGoodrich brand from 2006. Carlos Sainz concluded his first rally-raid event with VW-BFGoodrich on the podium.

BFGoodrich is currently working on two programmes simultaneously: the 2006 World Rally Championship and the 2006 Dakar Rally. The debut of BFGoodrich's WRC range is scheduled early December.

Meanwhile, BFGoodrich's partners in the world of cross -country rally-raiding are also busy preparing for 2006. The Mitsubishi-BFGoodrich team - which has won the Dakar ten times, including a series of five in a row - is actively building up to the 2006 event for which four Pajero/Montero Evo 4s will be entered.

The Volkswagen team and Carlos Sainz carried out an important test session in Morocco at the beginning of October. The Spaniard, who is still the most successful driver in WRC history with 26 wins to his name, was fastest over the prologue stage of the recent Baja Portalegre, an event used to prepare for the 2006 Dakar 2006, before going on to finish in 3rd place behind Luc Alphand (Mitsubishi-BFGoodrich) and Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW- BFGoodrich). The VW Race Touareg-BFGoodrich enjoyed further success in the 2005 Cross-Country World Cup when Stephane Henrard won the Rallye des Pharaons (September 25th - October 1st). Five Race Touaregs will take part in the 2006 Dakar.


Founded in 1870 by Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, the BFGoodrich brand has flown the colours of the Michelin Group on four wheels (cars) 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, MotoGP and Endurance racing. BFGoodrich's WRC tyres will be developed and produced in Clermont-Ferrand, France, where the majority of the Group's competition tyres are designed.

A prestigious record in motor sport

The BFGoodrich brand enjoys a glittering competition record. BFGoodrich tyres have won America's most prestigious off -road event - the Baja 1000 - nineteen times, as well as the world's best known hill -climb, Pikes Peak, the Sebring 12 Hours and the Daytona 24 Hours. In 2004, BFGoodrich won 75% of the cross-country events organised across the world, including a long list of European and American Bajas, the Dakar, etc. This season, in addition to a fourth consecutive win in the Dakar in association with Mitsubishi, BFGoodrich tyres clinched the 2005 FIA Cross Country World Cup with two rounds remaining following Bruno Saby's win in the Rallye d'Orient driving for Volkswagen .



As was the case for last weekend's Tour of Corsica, the tyre quota for the Priority 1 driversin Spain is 75 covers, of which a maximum of 45 may be used. The drivers had to register their lists before 6 p.m., Monday October 24th.


The Rally de Catalunya programme allows drivers to change tyres 8 times, that is to say twice more than was the case in Corsica for which their maximum quota was identical. They will consequently have less choice available which means that their respective nominated tyre loads will need to be perfectly pitched.


In the past, stages in the Costa Daurada region have been notoriously hard-wearing on tyres. They have since been resurfaced however. So what will wear-rates be like this weekend? In Corsica, during the second leg which took them over aggressive asphalt, all the Michelin drivers succeeded in perfectly managing their tyres over the full length of the stages.


Tyre-wise, Corsica'stwisty stages placed the accent very much on steering precision. For the Spanish round, it is essentially stability through the long, fast corners that drivers call for.


Consistent delivery of performance is one of the secrets of Michelin's asphaltrange. The 'feature story' included with this Rally de Catalunya preview goes into this topic in more detail.

Michelin, 2005 Spanish Rally Champions with Daniel Sordo

Driving a Michelin-shod Citroen C2, Spaniard Daniel Sordo recently clinched his national rally title thanks to a score of five wins - including three in a row - and three runner-up finishes from eight starts. The Spanish Championship is recognised as one of the most competitive in Europe.

Many predict a promising career for Daniel Sordo in the World Rally Championship. Aged just 22, Daniel won the Spanish hill-climb championship even before he had a driving licence (!) and he was twice the Spanish Junior Champion before this year securing his national title at the wheel of his Michelin-equipped Citroen C2. Daniel Sordo has competed in two parallel programmes this year: the Spanish Championship and the Junior World Rally Championship which he leads going into the final round-- in Spain. Sordo won five of his national championship's eightrounds, the last of which was the Rally de Asturias, the home region of his main rival who he beat by 2.6 seconds!

"It was a very close run thing between Hevia and me. Spanish asphalt is very demanding on tyres and on that front we progressed enormously in the course of the season. The new Michelin N0 tyres were very competitive," says Daniel Sordo.


Citroen The Citroen -Michelin team will be looking to obtain its third consecutive Manufacturers' title this weekend in Spain.

Ford The Rally de Catalunya is the 'pure' asphalt event on which Ford has had the most success (wins with Delecour, McRae and Martin).

Skoda. Boosted by their excellent run in Corsica with Alexandre Bengue, the Czech squad goes to the final asphalt round of 2005 determined to produce another top performance.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Sébastien Loeb , Armin Schwarz , Luc Alphand , Roman Kresta , Bruno Saby , Dani Sordo , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team