Rally Ireland: BFGoodrich preview

No jaunt for BFGoodrich! Sebastien Loeb (Citroen/BFGoodrich) and Marcus Gronholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) both returned from their recent visit to Japan without adding to their respective points scores, which means that Rally Ireland ? the penultimate...

No jaunt for BFGoodrich!

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen/BFGoodrich) and Marcus Gronholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) both returned from their recent visit to Japan without adding to their respective points scores, which means that Rally Ireland ? the penultimate round of the season ? could well prove decisive in the fight for the 2007 crowns. On the Drivers' front, Gronholm still enjoys a four-point cushion over Loeb, while in the Manufacturers' championship BP-Ford WRT/BFGoodrich could possibly wrap up the title this weekend. For BFGoodrich, Rally Ireland will mark the end of an era, that of the ultra-competitive asphalt rally tyre and of tyre strategies in the World Rally Championship.

Strangely, there's a French song which suggests that it's easier to find orange blossom in Monaco than it is to find orange trees in the Sligo region which is poised to host the penultimate round of the 2007 World Rally Championship. Bizarre as it may seem, there is actually more in common between WRC newcomer Rally Ireland and the legendary Monte Carlo than immediately meets the eye.

To begin with, the oldest and newest fixtures of the World Championship are the only two rounds which straddle national borders, since the former will cross from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland, while this year's Monte took crews from France to the Mediterranean Principality

For tyre manufacturers, these two rallies are similar in other ways, too. With the exception of the snow tyres that are specific to the Monte Carlo, the range available to BFGoodrich's partners this weekend is strikingly similar to that taken to last January's event, including soft and even extra-soft compound g-Force Profilers in readiness for potentially cold and/or damp asphalt.

Finally, the Monte Carlo and the Rally Ireland also stand out as the first and final asphalt events contested (and won?) by BFGoodrich tyres.

Above all, however, the coming weekend marks the end of an adventure for the drivers and for BFGoodrich's engineers and development staff: that is to say the era of ultra-competitive asphalt rally tyres which deliver phenomenal grip and consistency on the World Rally Cars despite their relatively small size which is dictated by the regulations. Since the 2006 Monte, the g-Force Profiler has never been beaten. Indeed, it is derived form the 'FP' generation asphalt tyre that was launched in 1998 and which has won every asphalt round of the WRC - except one - in the past 10 years.

"Of the three families of surface that the WRC takes in (i.e. gravel, asphalt and snow), asphalt stands out as a genuine challenge for tyres and tyre engineers," says BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager Matthieu Bonardel. "The drivers look for maximum grip and precise response and the chassis engineers demand rigidity, while the tyre engineers themselves strive to combat the natural rise in tyre pressures in order to guarantee consistency over the full length of stages. The BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler used in the WRC is a highly sophisticated product which comes in a choice of compounds for optimal use in different conditions." The new 2008 regulations will dictate the use of far more basic products and a single type of rubber.


QUOTA. Priority 1 drivers have a maximum quota of 70 tyres, of which they will be able to use up to 47 (rally + shakedown). These tyres were registered with the FIA on November 9.

36 WRC CARS ENTERED! The Irish championship is very popular with owners of ex-works WRC cars, which explains why no fewer than 36 World Rally Cars figure on the entry list of the Rally Ireland. Francois Duval (Xsara/BFGoodrich) will not be contesting Rally Ireland. However, the Belgian recently won the Rallye du Condroz in Belgium in an Abarth Grande Punto S2000/BFGoodrich.

TESTING. In addition to their asphalt test programmes in September, the Citroen and Ford works drivers contested a selection of Irish events. Marcus Gronholm won the Galway Rally at the beginning of the year, while Loeb won both the Donegal and Cork 20 Rallies. Sordo and Hirvonen also took part in the latter event.

A SUPER-SPECIAL IN BELFAST. The minimum land-tosea ratio of the tyres used for the super-special is 25% in order to reduce grip and thereby add to the show.

THE IRISH CHAMPION WITH BFGOODRICH. Eugene Donnelly (Skoda Fabia WRC) successfully defended his Irish Tarmac Rally crown in 2007 competing on BFGoodrich tyres. Eugene switched tyre brands mid-season to clinch the title with BFGoodrich.

THE EUROPEAN CHAMPION (NEARLY) WITH BFGOODRICH. Officially, Simon Jean-Joseph (Citroen C2/BFGoodrich) has not yet been declared to be the 2007 European Champion despite finishing second on October's Rallye d?Antibes. The outcome depends on the result of an appeal lodged with the FIA relating to Travaglia's exclusion from the penultimate round in Greece (Elpa Rally). The Frenchman nonetheless stands a strong chance of securing the crown for the second time.

VICTORY FOR PETERHANSEL IN DUBAI. The strong factory entry for the UAE Desert Challenge, the final round of the 2007 FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, featured three Mitsubishi Pajeros, two Volkswagen Race Touareg 2s and four BMW X3s. This event, which ran from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, traditionally serves as a full-scale dress rehearsal for the following January's Dakar and was this year won by Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich) for the fourth time.

A 10TH TITLE FOR BFGOODRICH. After winning the World Rally Championship in 1990 and 1992, Carlos Sainz (VW/BFGoodrich) claimed his first FIA World Cup crown by finishing second in Dubai. It is BFGoodrich's tenth title in the series.

BFGOODRICH VICTORY TOUR. From November until the end of December, BFGoodrich will pay a visit to five major European cities (Paris, London, Madrid, Turin and Essen). The BFGoodrich 'village' will feature an exhibition of competition cars, simulator competitions, etc. and is open to all motor sport fans.

-credit: bfgoodrich.com/racing

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team