October 17th 2004 will go down in history as the day Michelin scored an amazing triple world championship: on two wheels, Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) secured the 2004 MotoGP World Championship in brilliant ...
October 17th 2004 will go down in history as the day Michelin scored an amazing triple world championship: on two wheels, Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) secured the 2004 MotoGP World Championship in brilliant race-winning style at Phillip Island, while on four wheels Sébastien Loeb and Citroën secured the Drivers' and Manufacturers' World Rally Championships with two rounds remaining.
Michelin's Director of Competition, Pierre Dupasquier said: "This is a momentous day for Michelin. Winning any world title is special so taking three on the same day is remarkable. I just want to congratulate Valentino, Sébastien and Citroën. They have all shown brilliant form this year."
In today's penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship at Philip Island in Australia, Michelin rider Valentino Rossi wrapped up the 2004 MotoGP World Championship with a hard-fought victory, continuing Michelin's unprecedented domination of motorcycling's fastest, toughest race series. Today's title triumph gives Michelin its 13th consecutive world crown in the MotoGP/500 category and its 24th premier-class success since the company entered Grand Prix racing in the early seventies. And Rossi's race win is the company's 322nd premier-class victory, giving Michelin an astonishing win rate of 96.7 per cent over the past ten seasons.
The current 2004 World Championship standings also underline Michelin's strength in depth, with Michelin-equipped riders filling all but one of the top 11 positions. And this afternoon Rossi's main title rival Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) made sure of the series' runner-up spot for the second successive year.
Rossi was quick to thank Michelin for playing such a significant role in his amazing premier class career; the Italian genius has now won four MotoGP/500 titles in a row, all with Michelin tyres… "I have a very special relationship with Michelin," said the 25-year-old Italian, winner of eight races so far this year. "This has been an incredible season, with lap times getting faster and faster, and very much of this improvement comes from the tyres."
Michelin's superiority in biking's most technically challenging arena is built upon the relationship between its engineers and chemists and the riders, teams and factories. This interface produces winning know-how that allows the company to create high-performance tyres that also keep Michelin well ahead of the opposition on the street.
Despite determined opposition from rival brands, Michelin is still the tyre of choice for any MotoGP rider who wants tyres that will give consistently good performance throughout the season, which is why 41 of the 45 podium places so far this year have been filled by Michelin men.
"I use Michelin because if you have 10kmh less than the other guys, or five less horsepower, you can still win, but if you have worse tyres you have no chance," added Rossi. "The competition between Michelin and the other companies makes racing more interesting and for sure this battle also helps the lap times go down more quickly."
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin's competitions chief and the man who first brought the company into GPs, paid tribute to Rossi's title-winning campaign. "We already knew that Valentino is a remarkable talent, but to win the title at first attempt with a new team and a new bike is quite amazing," he said. "We have enjoyed this season because the extra competition from our rivals has given us a clear idea of what aspects of performance need to be improved. Tyre performance is increasingly the limiting factor in bike racing because we cannot easily increase the amount of rubber on the ground, whereas it seems that the manufacturers can increase horsepower whenever they want. This means we carry a lot on our shoulders, but we are up to it. We have been working hard to allow the riders to use more power more easily, and we think that our results this year show that we have been successful in that aim."
Meanwhile, on another island - this time in Corsica - Sébastien Loeb became the tenth driver in WRC history to take the World Rally Championship on Michelin tyres, by finishing 2nd in this weekend's Tour of Corsica.
After claiming victory in 2004's opening round in Monte Carlo, the Frenchman moved into top place for good in the spring, consolidating his position with a total harvest - to date - of five wins plus six second places. Also a regular podium finisher this year with one victory to his name, Loeb's team-mate Carlos Sainz has played a key role in ensuring Citroën-Michelin's second consecutive Manufacturers' crown, which takes Michelin's own score to 36 world titles (17 Drivers, 19 Manufacturers) since the creation of the championship in 1973.
Winner over the icy asphalt of the Monte Carlo Rally, then in snowy Sweden before collecting victory on the rough gravel of Cyprus and Turkey, and finally on the 'clear' asphalt of Germany, not only has Sébastien Loeb succeeded in sewing up the 2004 world title with two rounds to go, but he has also profited from the all-round performance of his Michelin tyres to win at least once on all the types of terrain visited during the season.
Meanwhile, Michelin has celebrated its second full WRC campaign with Citroën by securing its seventh consecutive Manufacturers' crown and its second in as many years with the French carmaker. Citroën profited from the close formation finish of the Xsaras of Loeb and Carlos Sainz in Ajaccio this weekend to put the issue beyond doubt by moving 51 points clear of Ford-Michelin, currently 2nd in the standings.
"Although our relationship goes back a long way, our partnership with Citroën in the WRC is in reality quite recent but it didn't take long for it to begin obtaining top results," underlines Frédéric Henry-Biabaud, Deputy Director of Michelin Competition. "After our Manufacturers' title together in 2003, our clear-cut Manufacturers' and Drivers' double this year confirms that our association has truly come of age and that it promises to be successful for a long time to come."
"In addition to the Xsara's reliability and the professionalism of not only its crews but also the entire Citroën Sport squad, we have contributed to these two titles by our expertise and the service we provide, as well as by our range of tyres which has proved its ability to finish in front over every type of surface encountered during the season: snow, asphalt, rough gravel, smooth gravel... Last but by no means least, there is the all-important human factor: Sébastien's racecraft and panache, for example, and the fact that he has competed on Michelin tyres throughout his irresistible climb to the top, not forgetting the complicity between our respective technical teams which has laid the solid, effective foundations of our collaboration."
The six wins achieved by the Citroën-Michelin association so far in this year's championship extends the total number of victories the two firms have scored together since 1999 to fourteen from the 211 WRC wins secured by Michelin since 1973.
The triple world championship success underlines Michelin's position as the World's leading tyre brand in motorsport and follows the company's resounding victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour race - its seventh consecutive win in the French classic - as well as its wins in innumerable other championships on two wheels and four.