WRC

Rally Great Britain: BFGoodrich preview

BFGoodrich targeting a 2006 grand slam to mark Aime Chatard's swansong event! BFGoodrich tyres have not only celebrated their maiden WRC campaign by claiming both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' titles with Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and BPFord...

BFGoodrich targeting a 2006 grand slam to mark Aime Chatard's swansong event!

BFGoodrich tyres have not only celebrated their maiden WRC campaign by claiming both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' titles with Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and BPFord WRT respectively, but they are also in a position to notch up a unique grand slam record for 2006 when the current series ends next weekend in Wales. Nothing, however, can be taken for granted since the stages of Wales Rally GB are reputed to be amongst the most challenging and treacherous of the entire championship. The last round of 2006 will also be the final WRC outing for BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard who is to retire at the end of the season.

Sporting grand slams have been in the news quite a lot recently, both in rallying and rugby union. Last week saw BFGoodrich's technical staff return from New Zealand with a 15th success from 15 outings under their belt practically at the same time as the celebrated All Blacks squad was on its way back home after an unbeaten run in its mini-European tour.

And there will be further ties between the worlds of rallying and rugby this weekend when Cardiff's splendid Millennium Stadium, rich in rugby tradition, hosts the final round of the 2006 World Rally Championship.

With the outcome of both WRC title chases already decided* (a third consecutive Drivers' crown for Loeb and Ford's second Manufacturers' title), the interest in Wales is likely to focus on the season-long battle that has opposed tyre firms BFGoodrich and Pirelli, and the former will be out to make it 16 wins from 16 when the season's final whistle blows on Sunday afternoon.

"BFGoodrich's first year in the WRC kicked off with the historic win of Ford and Marcus Gronholm on the legendary Monte Carlo Rally and will end with the equally legendary Wales Rally GB which invariably takes place in very difficult conditions.

The weather experts are predicting rain and temperatures of between -2 and 11C, and the possibility of snow during the weekend is not to be ruled out," warns Aime Chatard, BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager.

"Whatever the outcome of Wales Rally GB, BFGoodrich can justifiably be proud of its highly successful maiden WRC campaign. But preparations for 2007 have already started since it has been necessary to plan testing for the revised format Monte Carlo and Swedish Rallies which will begin right after the finish in Cardiff. BFGoodrich faces a particularly busy December since it will need to supply its partners with tyres for a total of no fewer than 27 days of testing!"

"The 2007 season will also be the last year of the WRC with tyres geared to 'performance'. After that, the tyre picture is due to undergo a marked shift including, amongst other things, the appointment of a single tyre firm for a period of three years from 2008. The winner of the tender is due to be announced on February 1, 2007. That will leave half a season to design and develop the future generation of rally tyres ? with fewer compound choices, no mousse run-flat systems, etc. - and that's no mean challenge."

* subject to publication of the official results by the FIA.

Aime Chatard in brief?

After 29 years with the Michelin Group's competition department, including 13 years in the WRC, BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Aime Chatard has chosen to take up the opportunity to retire in January 2007. After studying to become an electro-technician, Aime Chatard joined Michelin 38 years ago, initially as a motorcycle test rider and then to put his original professional training into practice in production plants in France, Spain and Canada. In 1977, he joined the competition department as a Grand Prix Moto technician before being promoted to become manager of Michelin's motorcycle competition department (Grand Prix, Endurance, Enduro, Trials, etc.). Switching to four wheels, he was in charge of the firm's Endurance programme when Peugeot won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1992 and 1993 and finally moved into rallying in 1993. He has always seen one of his missions as being to communicate the key role played by tyres in all motor sport disciplines.

"Many people simply see tyres as just another part of the car. But you only have to delve a little further into the subject to realise how complex they really are and how the world of competition tyres combines advanced technology and sophisticated chemistry, plus a penchant for exterior relations. It's a boundless world that keeps you constantly on your toes and looking forward."

This doubtlessly explains why tyres and motor sport have always held such a strong fascination for this ever affable Frenchman who is constantly on the move and who is capable of coming up with a thousand and one ideas a minute. His ideal day would start off with an early-morning snowmobile ride in the forests near his home followed by a technical meeting, a flight over the Auvergne region's volcanoes in a Cessna (he is a trained pilot), a communications/marketing meeting, a quick burst on a jet-ski and a rally tyre presentation to either rally pundits or mere neophytes. And all that rounded off with a cool beer and a chat in a bar with friends and colleagues! "Working for a tyre manufacturer in the arena of motor sport is a privileged position. By that I mean we are the interface between the company we represent and all our team and driver partners. To merit the confidence of all these people our work needs to be irreproachable. The fast pace of the world of competition means our lives have to be organised as a function of the calendar to the detriment of our private lives. But that same fast pace also helps you stay young and dynamic. There comes a moment though when you've got to turn the page and pass on the baton to younger blood."

Aime Chatard's successor in 2007 will be Matthieu Bonardel.

-credit: bfgoodrich

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Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Daniel Elena