The Mediterranean Trilogy, Episode 2: Michelin in Anatolia For the World Rally Championship community, it's just a small hop from the island of Cyprus to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, scene of the seventh of 2005's sixteen-round calendar. Ever...
The Mediterranean Trilogy, Episode 2: Michelin in Anatolia For the World Rally Championship community, it's just a small hop from the island of Cyprus to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, scene of the seventh of 2005's sixteen-round calendar. Ever since its inclusion in the series in 2003, the Rally of Turkey, which takes cars high into the Beydaglari Mountains, has always been happy hunting ground for Citroen-Michelin.
After Carlos Sainz's win two years ago, it was Sebastien Loeb's turn to claim top honours twelve months ago and these two drivers are again poised to join forces in the Citroen-Michelin camp this time round. Thanks to his score of four wins from six rallies -- including three in a row in New Zealand, Sardinia and Cyprus, all with Michelin's latest Z BTO tyre -- Sebastien Loeb has pulled out a gap at the top of the Drivers' championship with an advantage of 11 points over Petter Solberg and Markko Martin.
"Sebastien's domination over the recent rough stages of the Cyprus Rally, which broke new ground as far as the difficulty faced was concerned, eliminates a certain number of unknowns regarding Turkey," says Michelin Competition's Rallies Manager Aime Chatard.
"But although we won't exactly be setting foot on unchartered territory in Turkey, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the battle between Loeb, Solberg and Gronholm didn't really take place in Cyprus. In Turkey, if the ferocity of the fight pushes cornering speeds up, the picture could become wide open again," warns Chatard.
For the Rally of Turkey, all Michelin's drivers have nominated the new Michelin Z BTO, which won in its 9+ version (hard compound) in New Zealand, in its medium compound version (9) in Sardinia and in a wider version (approximately +10mm) in Cyprus. The Michelin Z BTO was competitive in New Zealand, Sardinia and Cyprus, but will it necessarily be suited to the next round? Even though the Turkish stages are globally less hard-wearing than their Cypriot counterparts, the Rally of Turkey promises to be another punishing challenge for the cars and tyres alike.
Two years ago, when it was organised at the back-end of winter, this event was the toughest of all the Mediterranean fixtures," recalls Aime Chatard. And last year's rally saw Sebastien Loeb tear a wheel off his car at the very end, forcing the winner to limp back to the Kemer finish on three wheels! Even so, the Rally of Turkey has always proved a successful event for Citroen-Michelin and, in 2003, Carlos Sainz secured the Xsara WRC's maiden victory on gravel there. Michelin, a better way forward; in Turkey For Michelin, just as it is for more than 250 French companies (including Renault, Carrefour, Danone, etc.), Turkey is a priority market and Pierre Desmaret, Michelin's General Manager for Africa and the Middle East, says that the tyre giant is likely to commit significant resources there in terms of both investment and staff over the coming years. Meanwhile, it's Turkey that the firm launched its new slogan 'Michelin, a better way forward'.
This year, Turkey will host a round of all the major motor sport disciplines in which Michelin is involved. In addition to the WRC and the Rally of Turkey, a Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Istanbul in August, the new FIA World Touring Car and FIA GT championships will visit the country in September, MotoGP action is scheduled for the end of October, while the Le Mans Endurance Series will wrap up the season at the beginning of November. And late-June will see the fourth round of the 2005 Cross Country Rally World Cup, the Rallye d'Orient, kick off its west-east traverse of the country from the shores of the Bosporus. From the former Ottoman Empire to the Le Mans 24 Hours.
As soon as the Rally of Turkey ends, Sebastien Loeb will jump onto a plane bound for Le Mans where he is scheduled to compete in the French endurance classic at the wheel of a Pescarolo on Michelin tyres (June 18th-19th). But first he must put in a minimum of ten laps during the event's preliminary practice day which takes place on Sunday June 5th.
THE GORDON BENNETT CUP CENTENARY
Michelin, World Champions already in 1905 On Saturday June 4th, while Sebastien Loeb is guiding his Citroen Xsara WRC-Michelin over the stages of the Rally of Turkey, Mr. Edouard Michelin will take the wheel of the Richard Brasier which, running on Michelin tyres, triumphed in the 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup, an international event which paved the way for today's modern competitions. Flashback to 1905. More than 80,000 spectators turned out to line the 137 km route through the Auvergne region's celebrated range of extinct volcanoes. The loop was tackled four times, with a refuelling/service zone organised at the end of each pass. Thanks to the first wireless telegraphs, some 300 journalists were able to transmit hourly reports from the race across the world, from London to New York. At 4.15 p.m., an official telegram announced the victory of Leon Thery's Richard Brasier on Michelin tyres. The firm's new 'soled' tyre performed marvels over the gravel roads and enabled Michelin's staff to save their drivers between four and six minutes.
The 1905 Gordon Bennett Cup, The 2005 Rally of Turkey, The basic requisites for success are still the same: performance, durability and reactivity. "Drivers are kindly requested to moderate their speed, only the pre-start briefing has changed!
ON THE TECHNICAL FRONT KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
Michelin views the Rally of Turkey as part of the same family of rough gravel events as Cyprus. The surface of the Turkish stages should however be globally less hard-wearing than that encountered by the WRC runners on the Mediterranean island. A FIERCE FIGHT The anticipated battle between Loeb, Solberg and Gronholm failed to materialise in Cyprus after the rapid eliminations of Gronholm and Solberg for mechanical reasons. The Rally of Turkey should therefore see the first true showdown of 2005 between this trio over rough gravel.