BFGoodbye! BFGoodrich Tires' adventure in the World Rally Championship, which began on the 2006 Monte Carlo Rally, is due to come to an end after this weekend's Wales Rally GB with a score of four world titles and, potentially, 32 world class...
BFGoodrich Tires' adventure in the World Rally Championship, which began on the 2006 Monte Carlo Rally, is due to come to an end after this weekend's Wales Rally GB with a score of four world titles and, potentially, 32 world class wins to its name. BFGoodrich's commitment to the sport will continue, however, through its presence in the fast expanding Intercontinental Rally Challenge and in national championships through the ranks of which rose the likes of Sebastien Loeb. Should Gronholm win in Wales, the Frenchman only needs to finish fifth to secure his fourth consecutive world title.
It will doubtlessly be a very emotional moment when BFGoodrich's staff lock up their semi-trailers next Sunday afternoon at the end of the Wales Rally GB, final round of the 2007 season, because of a decision by the FIA...
Before 2006, the American tyre brand was primarily known in the world of rally-raids and in the 4x4 market. However, it was keen to promote its road tyre range in Europe via a competition based on advanced technology. The 2006 season saw the brand enter the World Rally Championship alongside its 'official' partners Kronos- Citroen and BP-Ford, not to mention a long list of privateers who flew the brand's colours proud and high.
That first year enabled BFGoodrich to claim a long list of successes against a formidable rival which had been in the sport for more than 30 years. The brand won all 16 rounds and both titles as it invested in the WRC in a bid to establish its name on the European market, but the prospect of a control tyre system began to loom ever larger.
Despite the backing of BFGoodrich's partners, the decision to go down this road was announced at the beginning of 2007, but the firm's commitment didn't drop. On the contrary, its development team came out with new evolutions like the g-Force Gravel 10 which was launched in Greece, while the technicians were as active as ever within their respective teams and the fitters continued to meticulously prepare the tyres to ensure that the fight went as smoothly as possible on a level playing field.
"I am extremely proud of the work put in by everyone at BFGoodrich," says the Michelin Group's Competition Director Frederic Henry-Biabaud. "We leave the WRC with our heads high. This may be the end of an adventure, but it's the beginning of another. In 2008, BFGoodrich will step up its involvement in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, as well as in several national championships. The IRC is growing fast and stands out as a fiercely contested series that permits free competition. The national series represent the sport's grass roots and will durably establish the BFGoodrich name at national level."
On the technical front, the 2007 Wales Rally GB also marks the end of an era for the extremely advanced technology seen in the sport during 30 years of untiring effort, ongoing development, innovations such as run-flat mousse and revolutions like the FP generation asphalt tyre and the BTO generation gravel tyre. From 2008, the WRC regulations will herald the advent of far more basic tyres which will undoubtedly be less competitive than the customer competition tyres employed in the IRC and the national championships in which BFGoodrich is present!
SEB JUNIOR. Valentine Loeb was born at the end of the afternoon of November 19, 2007. Everyone at BFGoodrich extends their congratulations to Sebastien Loeb and his wife Severine.
QUOTA. Priority 1 drivers have a maximum quota of 60 tyres, of which they are authorised to use up to 38 (rally + shakedown). These tyres were registered with the FIA on November 23.
2007 DRIVERS' TITLE. Should Marcus Gronholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) win the Wales Rally GB, fifth place would suffice for Sebastien Loeb (Citroen/BFGoodrich) to clinch his fourth world title. If Gronholm comes second, Loeb will be able to settle for seventh place. To stand a chance of claiming the 2007 crown, Marcus Gronholm must finish in the top-two.
P-WRC. The Wales Rally GB is the final round of the PWRC. Gabriel Pozzo needs to win in Cardiff if he wants to stop the 2007 title going to Japan's Toshihiro Arai (Subaru/BFGoodrich).
THE YEAR'S LAST TESTS. Citroen has used up its annual quota of 48 days of testing, so it didn't undertake any specific testing for the final round. Ford and Subaru both programmed four days upstream of the Wales Rally GB. Suzuki tested in the south of France (Mazamet).
G-FORCE GRAVEL WRC. After the Rally Ireland, which marked the g-Force Profiler WRC's final outing. The Wales Rally GB will spell the end of the g-Force Gravel WRC, an evolution of the 'BTO' generation launched in 2005. This generation won 27 of the 30 rallies it contested.
A RALLY OF SWAN SONGS. The Wales Rally GB marks the end of BFGoodrich's presence in the WRC. Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen, who will contest their 150th WRC round, have announced their decision to retire from the series at the end of the season. It is also retirement time for Citroen Sport's emblematic boss Guy Frequelin, and it's the end of the adventure for Austrian oil company OMV, long-time partner of Manfred Stohl.
A RALLY OF DEBUTS. In contrast, the weekend marks the WRC gravel debut of the Suzuki SX4 WRC, as well as the first outing in a WRC car for 2007 African Champion Conrad Rautenbach.
BAJA 1000. BFGoodrich notched up its 21st victory on America's biggest rally-raid, the Baja 1000, which was won by Mark Post. Armin Schwarz failed to finish in his Class 1 BFGoodrich-shod buggy.