Loeb, Elena, Kronos and BFGoodrich score their first WRC win together * BFGoodrich wins the only WRC round to take place on its home continent, North America * BFGoodrich's third WRC success on as many different types of ...
Loeb, Elena, Kronos and BFGoodrich score their first WRC win together
* BFGoodrich wins the only WRC round to take place on its home continent, North America
* BFGoodrich's third WRC success on as many different types of terrain
* BFGoodrich continues to top both the Drivers' (Loeb) and Manufacturers' (Kronos Total Citroen) tables
After finishing second on two occasions so far this year, Citroen/BFGoodrich's Sebastien Loeb claimed his maiden win of 2006 by beating the on-form Petter Solberg (Subaru) in this weekend's Rally Mexico. The duel between the pair kept spectators on their toes all the way to the end of Leg 2 when the Norwegian was slowed by power steering trouble. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) finished on the podium for the third time of his career, while Marcus Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen harvested four Manufacturers' points for BP-Ford/BFGoodrich despite both leaving the road earlier in the event.
Following two non-finishes since the start of the year, Petter Solberg (Subaru) had no choice but to attack from the outset in a bid to profit from his ideal starting position (9th) during the early part of the rally. While the first competitors on the road were busy sweeping a clearer line for their pursuers, the Norwegian set about posting a string of fastest times to pull out a lead of around half a minute over Gronholm and Loeb after the first three stages. Running 6th on the road, the young Finn Mikko Hirvonen (Ford/BFGoodrich) emerged as the only driver able to match Solberg's early pace.
For the second pass, which took place over much cleaner tracks, Sebastien Loeb chose hard compound (9+) BFGoodrich g-Force Gravels which enabled him to claw back much of that initial deficit to end Day 1 just 10s adrift of the provisional leader Solberg. Marcus Gronholm left the road however on one of the first corners of SS4 and, in doing so, lost his status as the 2006 Drivers' championship's provisional leader. The incident also left his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, then 2nd overall, on his own to defend BP-Ford/BFGoodrich's colours. But not for long-- Practically straight into Leg 2, the Finn's Ford Focus WRC06 rolled out of contention, leaving Solberg and Loeb engaged in a fierce fight that would last until the end of Saturday afternoon when the Norwegian found himself without power steering after clouting a rock.
Sebastien Loeb went on to post fastest time over Sunday morning's long test (Leon, 38 km) to clinch his maiden win in the demanding Rally Mexico which has essentially failed to smile on him until this year.
Peugeot 307 WRC/BFGoodrich driver Manfred Stohl finished on a WRC podium for the second time of his career, yet he was fortunate to reach the finish after colliding with a cow in SS13. Dani Sordo, the revelation of 2005, crowned his first ever visit to Mexico and his first outing with the Xsara WRC on the loose with 4th spot. The young Spaniard promises to be a force to be reckoned with in a fortnight's time when the series moves on to the asphalt of Catalonia--
Sebastien Loeb (Kronos Total Citroen/BFGOODRICH): "I would like to thank everybody at Kronos and BFGoodrich. My tyres were very strong all weekend, especially for the second passes, and that enabled me to make up for the time I lost early on as a result of my position on the road."
Frederic Henry-Biabaud (Michelin Group Competition Director): "Winning here in North America, the brand's home continent, has a special taste for BFGoodrich. The rally was decided in the second passes through the stages which saw BFGoodrich's tyres reveal their resistance to wear, consistency and performance potential. A big bravo to Sebastien for his result this weekend. A big bravo too to the Kronos team who gave him a reliable, competitive Xsara WRC. Seb's fight with Petter Solberg was a true thriller and it's a shame it didn't last all the way to the flag. Petter proved this weekend, however, that the competition is well and truly back in the frame."
g-Force Gravel 9: A medium compound tyre used by the majority of BFGoodrich runners for Friday's first loop, either with a 'full cut'or a 'half cut'with a view to clearing the top coating of loose gravel. The three Kronos drivers chose the 'full cut', while Gronholm went for the 'half cut'.
g-Force Gravel 9+: A hard compound tyre used by all BFGoodrich runners on the Friday and Saturday afternoons and by Loeb on Saturday morning because of the high temperatures and the length of the loop (73 km). This highly consistent tyre is also very resistant to wear. Its construction ensures excellent lateral grip and outstanding traction.
ROCKS. Although the 2006 Rally Mexico stages were practically all identical to those used in 2005, all the drivers agree that there was much more surface gravel around this time, notably on Leg 1. The numerous rocks that littered the stages off-line produced several punctures, but none had any significant effect on times thanks to the tyres'mousse inserts.
80-90%. At the end of Leg 1's second loop - i.e. after 73km, with ground temperatures approaching the 50C mark - the wear recorded on the g-Force Gravel varied from 80 to 90% as a function of the different car/driver combinations. No additional wear was noted following this year's return to non- active differentials however. High altitudes and less power also playing a part.
HEAT. This year's event saw ground temperatures soar some 10C higher than in 2005, with a peak at 49C during the Saturday afternoon. It won't be until Greece that WRC runners can expect to find similarly high temperatures.
HARD COMPOUND. The hard compound g-Force Gravel 9+ - the hardest of the g-Force Gravel range - was the most frequently chosen tyre this weekend. Would the availability of an even harder compound in the catalogue result in a reduction in the phenomenon of wear? The answer is no. A harder compound would result in additional wheelspin and cause the tyres to wear even more.