A brisk tour of Corsica-- After its recent visit to Japan, where Michelin claimed its 37th world title with Sebastien Loeb, the FIA World Rally Championship moves on to Corsica for Round 14 of the 16- round series. With a total score of 21 wins...
A brisk tour of Corsica--
After its recent visit to Japan, where Michelin claimed its 37th world title with Sebastien Loeb, the FIA World Rally Championship moves on to Corsica for Round 14 of the 16- round series. With a total score of 21 wins to Michelin's name on the Mediterranean island since 1973, the Rallye de France - Tour de Corse has long been successful hunting ground for the French tyre firm which will be out for further success this time round. Meanwhile, on the event which brought the Citroen Xsara WRC -Michelin its maiden world class victory, the French car can once again be expected to play a leading role as Sebastien Loeb and Franc ois Duval both attempt to score their first win on the sealed-surface classic.
Although it no longer visits the whole island, the Tour of Corsica is still very much a legendary rally. And although only twelve stages figure on the menu this time round, the 2005 event promises to be a fast and furious, flag-to-flag contest!
The Rallye de France - Tour de Corse is without doubt the most demanding event of the WRC calendar, not only for the crews - who need to be 100% concentrated with so many steep drop-offs all around them - but also for the tyres which are pushed to the absolute limit, as illustrated by the temperatures of up to 140C recorded there on the tyres' tread bands by Michelin's engineers and technicians .
The narrow asphalt stages that twist up and down the Corsican mountains are effectively a telling test for tyres. The corners which follow on from each other without let-up impose incessant weight transfers from side to side, while the non-stop sequence of hard acceleration and heavy braking produce wheelspin followed immediately by negative Gs, all this on an abrasive surface that can be badly cut up in places. Despite the temperatures they get up to, the tyres themselves nee to provide precise handling, maximum grip and optimum traction from the start to the finish of every stage--
Given this awesome challenge, the Michelin N FP asphalt tyre (FP for 'FortPotential')- which was launched in 1998 - stands out as a major ally to the French firm's partner teams . The remarkable consistency and performance of this technologically-advanced product have helped Michelin runners win every Tour of Corsica since 1998, bar one. Tyres are effectively crucial in Corsica," stresses Aime Chatard, Michelin Competition's Rallies Programme Manager. This year's stages and groups of stages are once again very long and the drivers must manage their tyres intelligently. On top of that, this is an island-- in October, which means the weather is likely to be unpredictable, which in turn makes getting tyre choices spot-on vital."
The rally where tyres never rest!
With 21 wins to its name on the Tour of Corsica since the creation of the World Rally Championship in 1973, Michelin is the most successful tyre manufacturer on this event. In 1999, Philippe Bugalski established a new record average speed for the French round when he won at an average of 94.32 kph with the two-wheel drive Citroen Xsara running on the new Michelin N FP tyre. The following year saw Gilles Panizzi claim his first world class win with the Peugeot 206 WRC-Michelin, while a year later it was the turn of Jesus Puras and the Citroen Xsara WRC -Michelin to kick off their respective World Rally Championship winning records. In 2002, Peugeot-Michelin scored a memorable one-two-three finish with Panizzi, Gronh olm and Burns, and last year saw Markko Martin take Ford-Michelin's third Corsican win.
Sebastien Loeb ? As curious as it may seem, the two-times World Champion, who not only holds the record for the highest number of wins in a season (eight and counting in 2005) as well as for the highest number of consecutive wins (six), has yet to win his home round! That said, it was in Corsica that he first sprang to international acclaim by rounding off his first drive at the wheel of a privately-entered WRC car (Toyota-Michelin) with 9th place in 2000.
Clearly then, the Frenchman will be especially keen to take the laurels at the port-side finish next Sunday afternoon in Ajaccio. But equally motivated will be his Citroen -Michelin team- mate Francois Duval who is still looking for his first WRC win as well as his first win on the Mediterranean island after leading for much of last year's event . At the same time, the Xsara pair will have their minds on winning the Manufacturers' title for Citroen who go to Corsica with a 22-point advantage over Peugeot.
Toni Gardemeister and Roman Kresta (Ford Focus WRC-Michelin) will have the same car/tyre package which won the 2004 event and which once again promises to figure strongly, while Michelin will also be a valuable ally to Skoda in the Czech firm's bid to set some top times and finish high up with Armin Schwarz and Alexandre Bengue.
BFGOODRICH TYRES IN WRC FROM 2006
Fifty days until the first WRC tests-- Debut imminent for Sainz with VW-BFGoodrich
The Michelin Group, which has been present in the World Rally Championship since the creation of the series in 1973, is to continue its involvement in the sport through its BFGoodrich brand from 2006. In fifty days' time, the newBFGoodrich asphalt tyre will start testing in preparation for the Monte Carlo Rally.
BFGoodrich is currently working on two programmes simultaneously: the 2006 World Rally Championship and the 2006 Dakar Rally. The debut of BFGoodrich's WRC range is scheduled for Week 48, in exactly 50 days' time .
Meanwhile, BFGoodrich's partners in the world of cross -country rally-raiding are also busy preparing for 2006. The Mitsubishi-BFGoodrich team - which has won the Dakar ten times, including a series of five in a row - is actively building up to the 2006 event for which four Pajero/Montero Evo 4s will be entered. This month, its crews are busy on a physical fitness course at La Grande Motte in the south of France.
Volkswagen and Carlos Sainz went testing in Morocco at the beginning of October. The Spaniard, who holds the record for the highest number of WRC wins (26), is expected to compete in next weekend'sBaja Portalegre before tackling the UEA Desert Challenge as part of his build-up to the 2006 Dakar. The VW Race Touareg-BFGoodrich enjoyed further success in the 2005 Cross-Country World Cup when Stephane Henrard won the Rallye des Pharaons (September 25th - October 1st). Five Race Touaregs will take part in the 2006 Dakar.
Founded in 1870 by Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, the BFGoodrich brand has flown the colours of the Michelin Group on four wheels (cars) in the Dakar Rally and in the Cross Country World Cup since 1998. From 2006, BFGoodrich will spearhead Michelin's presence in rallying, both in the WRC and on the Dakar, while the Michelin brand will continue to compete in Formula 1, MotoGP and Endurance racing. BFGoodrich's WRC tyres will be developed and produced in Clermont-Ferrand, France, where the majority of the Group's competition tyres are designed.
A prestigious record in motor sport
The BFGoodrich brand enjoys a glittering competition record. BFGoodrich tyres have won America's most prestigious off -road event - the Baja 1000 - nineteen times, as well as the world's best known hill -climb, Pikes Peak, the Sebring 12 Hours and the Daytona 24 Hours. In 2004, BFGoodrich won 75% of the cross-country events organised across the world, including a long list of European and American Bajas, the Dakar, etc. This season, in addition to a fourth consecutive win in the Dakar in association with Mitsubishi, BFGoodrich tyres clinched the 2005 FIA Cross Country World Cup with two rounds remaining following Bruno Saby's win in the Rallye d'Orient driving for Volkswagen .
ON THE TECHNICAL FRONT
75 TYRES PER DRIVER
For the Tour of Corsica, Priority 1 drivers will have a maximum quota of 75 tyres, of which only 45 may be used. Individual lists had to be registered with the FIA before Monday October 17th at the latest.
TWO PATTERN TYPES
Two types of tread pattern are authorised for the Tour of Corsica. Michelin drivers will be able to choose from the dry weather Michelin N and the wet weather Michelin TA. The patterns of both these tyres may be re-cut in the service park prior to the stages with a view to adapting them as closely as possible to the weather conditions of the moment.
THREE GROUPS OF STAGES
The route of the 2005 Tour of Corsica is divided into three groups of two stages each. These groups of stages are relatively long (60 km, 62 km and 47 km) and good tyre management by the drivers will be essential. Michelin runners are expected to choose between the N2 (medium compound), the N2+ (medium-hard compound) and the N4 (hard compound) for the afternoon loops if ground temperatures are high.
21 MICHELIN WINS IN CORSICA
Since 1973, Michelin tyres have won the Tour of Corsica twenty-one times with 12 different drivers and 9 different manufacturer-partners. Didier Auriol has won the event 5 times on Michelin tyres, while Lancia has won it 6 times in association with Michelin.
NEWS FROM MICHELIN'S PARTNERS
Citroen. A fter a fortnight's break, Sebastien Loeb will be out to win the Rallye de France- Tour de Corse, an event which is still missing from his personal record. Citroen recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the legendary DS which took a long list of wins on major rallies running on Michelin tyres. The DS19 won the Tour of Corsica in 1961 and 1963 (Trautman).
Ford. Two-times World Champion Marcus Gronholm , 37, recently signed a two-year contract to drive for Ford. The new Ford Focus is scheduled to make its debut in a month's time in Rally Australia.
Skoda. Frenchman Alexandre Bengue returns behind the wheel of the Fabia WRC. Following its return from Japan, the Skoda team recently completed a week's testing in preparation for the two forthcoming asphalt fixtures.