A fortnight after the tragic events of Rally GB, the World Rally Championship focuses on the Hokkaido island-based Rally Japan, Round 13 of the 2005 calendar. This event, which counted towards the WRC for the first time last year, could well see...
A fortnight after the tragic events of Rally GB, the World Rally Championship focuses on the Hokkaido island-based Rally Japan, Round 13 of the 2005 calendar. This event, which counted towards the WRC for the first time last year, could well see Sebastien Loeb (Citroen -Michelin) secure a second consecutive Drivers' world title. To help him, like all his fellow Michelin WRC runners, the Frenchman will benefit from the technology that goes into Michelin's Z BTO tyre which has claimed 80% of the gravel events contested since the beginning of the year.
After moving to the top of the provisional 2005 Drivers' standings on May 1st, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen -Michelin) could have made sure of his second world title recently in Wales after his domination of Rally GB. But following the tragic last day accident, the Citroen driver preferred to postpone the championship decision by checking in early at the final time control. Sebastien Loeb finally finished the British round in 3rd place behind Petter Solberg (Subaru) and his team-mate Francois Duval (Citroen -Michelin).
In the Welsh forests, the Michelin Z BTO (BTO for Braking & Traction Optimisation) once again proved extremely competitive. Michelin's driver -partners used a selection of products from the BTO range, from the soft compound Z8 on the Friday to the 'medium' compoundZ9 on the Saturday afternoon. With the exception of Friday's second loop of stages which dried more quickly than anticipated, tyre choices were right each time. Meanwhile, Citroen 's Sebastien Loeb and Francois Duval inaugurated a new evolution Z9- version of the Michelin Z BTO developed specifically for Rally GB with which they posted the fastest and second fastest times over the Saturday morning group of stages.
Loeb (Citroen-Michelin) homing in on the 2005 Drivers' world title
Sebastien Loeb has never been so close to clinching the 2005 Drivers' title and the championship could effectively be settled by the end of Rally Japan, thirteenth round of the series. A podium finish would effectively suffice to hand the crown to the Frenchman this weekend, even if Solberg wins. In 2004, Loeb finished 2nd over Hokkaido island's fast yet twisty gravel tracks... behind Solberg !
"Last year's result was essentially sealed following a poor tyre choice for the first group of stages. The surface was wet but gravel note crews were not allowed to look at the stages and there was no way of knowing in advance what they were like," remembers Michelin Competition's Rallies ManagerAime Chatard. "This year, each tyre manufacturer will be authorised to send staff through the stages prior to the competitors with a view to reporting on conditions. Unfortunately, however, because of tight timing they will be forced to cover the stages in the middle of the previous night. They have a tough job on their hands..."