Rally New Zealand Michelin preview

2001 World Rally Championship Round 10: Rally New Zealand (September 20th - 23rd 2001) The longest trip of all... According to chosen itinerary, it takes a minimum of twenty four hours to travel to New Zealand, host country of the 2001 World...

2001 World
Rally Championship
Round 10: Rally New Zealand (September 20th - 23rd 2001)

The longest trip of all...

According to chosen itinerary, it takes a minimum of twenty four hours to travel to New Zealand, host country of the 2001 World Rally Championship's tenth round. Once on the other side of the planet, the sport's top names will actually only compete against the clock for less than four hours, not even a sixth of the time they will spend in the air to get there. At first glance that might seem a little out of proportion, but that's not at all the opinion of the drivers themselves!

The world of rallying is unanimous: this event features some of the sport's finest special stages. More perhaps than on any other loose surface rally, the drivers can let their talent take front stage over such suberb sweeping terrain without having to be overly wary of unexpected hazards or sparing the mechanicals. Even so, despite the understandable pleasure drivers are sure to derive in NZ, the battle at the sharp end promises be as fierce as ever, especially since the final phase in the title chase has well and truly begun. In points terms, he who finishes first next Sunday certainly won't have made the long trip out to the South Pacific for nothing!

While the show promises to be as spectacular as ever, the main question this year concerns the conditions competitors will find. Traditionally organised in July, in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter, past Rally New Zealands have frequently been marked by the sort of rain generally associated with the deep forests of Wales. So how will the going be following this year's switch to a new late-September slot, and will the shift to a Spring date ensure the sort of warm weather that can only serve to make the experience 'down under' more enjoyable still?

Whatever the answer, there is every chance that tyres will play their usual key role in New Zealand . Unbeaten on this event since 1998, Michelin's partners will benefit from a range of proven, competitive products. As in Finland, swift, precise steering response through the faster portions will be vital, while grip and traction will be equally crucial throughout whether the twisty lanes are dry, damp or wet. Once again, in the clash between the super-stars, the tenths of a second saved by tyres promise to be as decisive as ever in New Zealand's green and pleasant land...

On the technical front
Tyres and the World Rally Championship
Like any tyre (car, truck,...), a World Rally Championship tyre has to fulfil a certain number of functions: grip, absorb, steer, transmit, resist. To be competitive, it must of course combine all these roles. However, the specificity of each round tends to put the spotlight on one or sometimes two of these functions... <pre> GRIP RALLY NEW ZEALAND: STEER

Grip is generated by the reaction of the rubber's * It's no coincidence if Rally New Zealand is played out molecules over the unevenness of the ground. The to a lush green backdrop. True, this year's event has tyre's pattern and dimensions contribute to grip by been put back two months in the calendar (to the optimising the contact between the tread and the road. early southern hemisphere spring), but rain and this road. round have long had a tendency to be indissociable. Despite some relatively dry years in the past, ABSORB achieving grip in the mud has therefore, more often than not, been one of the main challenges faced by The properties of tyres and the air they contain form an Michelin's technicians here. integral part of the vehicle's suspension, especially * In poor weather, tyres must be capable of slicing since the tyre is in the front line when it comes to through the slippery topfilm in search of a more soaking up obstacles on the road. stable base underneath. To this end, while the treadblocks' leading edges are designed to favour traction and braking, it is the role of the pattern's STEER grooves of course to channel and jetisson excess liquid mud and water. Tyres must be capable of responding instantly and as accurately as possible to drivers' instructions via the * When it comes out of its mould, the sea-to-land ratio steering wheel. Construction and compound directly of a gravel tyre such as the Michelin Z is around influence the quality of this response. 40%. However, to fine-tune their tyres to match prevailing conditions, drivers frequently 're-cut' their patterns, an operation that can increase their TRANSMIT clearance capacity by nearly 10%. Not only must the tyre transmit the vehicle's power to * Even so, re-cutting is a process that should be used the ground, but its construction and pattern must also sparingly. Firstly, it can require up to one hour of enable it cope efficiently with the effects of torque, be fairly physical work for a full set of five tyres. And this positive (acceleration) or negative (braking). more importantly, when portions of the stage are dry, excessive cutting can detract from the tread blocks' rigidity and thereby compromise their strength, RESIST handling and steering qualities. As ever, with a product as complex as a WRC tyre, the modification Despite suffering repeated aggression due to the of a single parameter can often have a knock-on extreme running conditions (long distances at high effect on its other properties... speed, high temperatures, long groups of stages, rough ground), the tyre must conserve its performance characteristics over time.

Prevailing Type of tyre theoretically Dimension Technical description conditions the most suited

Clear, hard Michelin Z 17/65x15 The rigidity of the Michelin Z's tread blocks limits their ground mobility on aggressive stage surfaces.

Damp, soft or Michelin ZA 17/65x15 A relatively open tread pattern to penetrate the loose top loose stages surface in search of more compact ground deeper down.

These products are available in two compounds according to conditions: 8 (for mild weather or wet ground) and 9 (for hot weather and/or harder wearing stages).

Michelin has a total staff of 14 in New Zealand. The total number of covers available for the event is approximately 2,320 dispatched to New Zealand by ship and plane. All are fitted with Michelin's ATS system (Appui Temporaire Souple).

Rally New Zealand in brief...

* Rally headquarters: Auckland, N. Zealand * Surface type: smooth gravel * Total distance*: 1690.39 km * Number of 'stages'* : 24 * Total 'stage' distance* : 382.46 km (*) Organisers' data

The single biggest new feature of the 2001 Rally New Zealand concerns its new date. For a long time organised in July, in the heart of the southern hemisphere winter, the 31st running of this event has been switched to September. However, although the weather conditions in the early part of spring promise on paper to be milder and drier, nobody is taking anything for granted in advance.

As far as its format is concerned, the 10th round of the 2001 championship is very close to that of last year. But the driver won't be complaining about since the stages in this far-off country are amongst the finest in the world.

World Championship regulars will therefore find the three traditional legs that will take them successively to the south and north of host town Auckland. The stages in the southernmost part of the route

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Series WRC