In the world of motor sport, little is ever set in concrete for long. In the 2000 World Rally Championship, for example, those who believed that Richard Burns and Subaru were on the point of walking away with both the Drivers' and Manufacturers'...
In the world of motor sport, little is ever set in concrete for long. In the 2000 World Rally Championship, for example, those who believed that Richard Burns and Subaru were on the point of walking away with both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' titles have had to think seriously again in the light of recent results.
For sure, the British driver and his car are still very much in strong contention for both championships. However, more than ever, they know they continue to face serious opposition as confirmed by the recent successes of Colin McRae (Ford-Michelin) in Greece and of Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot-Michelin) in New Zealand. Indeed, these two wins take the total number of victories by Michelin's WRC partners so far this year to 5 from the 8 rounds organised to date.
Meanwhile, a closer look at the results reveals that the Catalonia and Safari Rallies have been the only rounds this year where Peugeot has not topped the timesheets at one point or another, while two outright wins and three double podiums in four events for Ford are eloquent pointers to the British squad's stunning current form. And who is to say that Mitsubishi won't soon be back in the thick of the fight alongside all these teams? And why not even this coming weekend in Finland.
Naturally, this anticipated reaction to the success enjoyed recently by Burns owes much to the considerable work put in by the Briton's rivals these past few months, an intensive testing programme with which Michelin readily associates itself. One of the most satisfying consequences of this work was the French tyre manufacturer's remarkable result on the Acropolis, the most punishing European rally of them all. The event underlined the performance and resistance of the French firm's range which harvested no fewer than fifteen fastest stage times from nineteen and a no-nonsense one-two finish for Ford-Michelin's McRae and Sainz.
Combined with its recent win in New Zealand, these positive results are extremely encouraging for this weekend's action in Finland, as well as for the forthcoming Rally of Cyprus whose sun-baked tracks have nothing to envy those of Greece!
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Tyres and the World Rally Championship
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Michelin's success in the World Rally Championship is founded on its expertise and the high standard of service it provides. However, every event poses its own particular challenge and success often hinges on the quality and accuracy of the response to each situation.
The challenge of Finland.
Finland's narrow, ultra quick, tree-lined stages make this an event that puts the accent on driver skill and bravery, but a good tyre can save those 100ths of a second through every corner that add up to make a real difference at the finish. At average speeds of close to 120 kph (!), drivers demand high performance products that combine all the qualities expected of a gravel tyre.
Michelin's solution - a complete package
Aimé Chatard, manager of Michelin's rallies programme:
o "To understand the extreme demands made of a tyre in Finland, you only have to imagine what it goes through every time it lands after a fast jump before braking hard for a tight turn. o "On landing, its immediate function is to help absorb the dynamic mass of the car and crew while ensuring perfect stability under braking. At the same time, it must be capable of responding instantly to the slightest instruction from the steering wheel as the driver turns in and then goes on to ensure faultless traction as the power comes back on. This whole sequence, which is repeated countless times in the course of the three-day event, is over in an instant. Yet it calls practically simultaneously on all the functions - in all three planes - that make up the tyre's overall performance envelope.
o "Although Michelin has only been beaten in Finland on three occasions since 1983, never has the development of our tyres for this highly specific event eased up in any way. On the contrary, we are constantly looking to improve their steering response, perfect their lateral grip and enhance their stability, both under braking and on landing after jumps. Combined with a perfectly set-up car, these are all fundamental when it comes to giving the drivers the tools they need to give their absolute maximum through every corner of this relentless sprint."
The tyre's importance in Finland, as seen by:
Marcus Grönholm (driver, Peugeot-Michelin)
"All the roles played by a tyre are important in Finland, but sideways grip and turning-in performance at high speed are probably the main qualities I look for.
Braking performance is essential too, but I find a good tyre is always strong in this area.
Wear isn't a major issue, but you still need o select compounds with care. Although the stages are generally hard, it's preferable to go for the softer option if the weather isn't too hot.
A thin layer of surface gravel makes start order quite important in the dry (running 4th or 5th is probably best) but the problem is not so critical here as it is, say, in Australia. Cutting the pattern to adjust it to the conditions can help."
Michelin's tyres for Finland
Type of tyre theoretically the most suited
Technical description Clear, hard ground
17/65x15 The rigidity of the Michelin Z's tread blocks limits their mobility on aggressive stage surfaces. All these products are available in two compounds according to conditions: 8 (for warm or wet weather) and 9 (for hotter weather and/or harder wearing stages). Damp, soft or loose stages
A relatively open tread pattern to penetrate the loose top surface in
search of more compact ground deeper down.
Soft ground or loose gravel
16/65x15 or 17/65x15
Used successfully for the first time last year in Australia. It differs from the Michelin Z and ZA by its more open tread pattern. Available in two widths.
Michelin has a total staff of 26 in Finland. The total number of covers available for the event is 4,600 carried in 11 semi-trailer workshops. All are fitted with Michelin's ATS system (Appui Temporaire Souple). These figures do not include those teams supplied and serviced by Michelin Finland.