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After over 40 years and more than 250 outright victories, how does Michelin stay ahead of the World Rally Championship field?
Two years ago, the FIA – the people who govern international motorsport – introduced a new tyre regulation to the World Rally Championship. Their objective was clear: control costs and improve safety. The solution was simple: reduce tyre choice at every rally to just a hard or soft option.
For Michelin, this new initiative made total sense. The French tyre firm has won 48 WRC titles and understands the remarkable R&D potential of top level rallying, but while motorsport is a proud part of Michelin’s heritage, there has always been a road-going reason to be involved.
“Testing and developing tyres at the pace that teams in the WRC demand is a huge commitment,” explains Tim Hoare, Michelin’s Motorsport Manager in the UK and Ireland. “For Michelin, supplying the leading manufacturer teams provides us with a crucial opportunity to use the series as a laboratory to accelerate tyre development and innovation. As a result, the connection between our competition tyres and our road tyres is absolute.”
Like the size of them, for example. The new regulations fixed gravel spec rubber at 15 inches and tarmac tyres at 18, two of the most popular wheel and tyre sizes on road cars. “In addition,” continues Hoare, “the new rules demanded that our tyres should last much longer than competition tyres traditionally do. So, we needed to produce tyres that would be quick, durable and capable of handling all conditions on any given rally.”
It’s a race-to-road link that fits perfectly into Michelin’s commitment to the pursuit of Total Performance in every tyre it produces – but is most definitely not a case of ‘one size fits all’. The World Rally Championship takes in 13 events between January and November and tests the drivers on every conceivable surface, in all types of weather.
From the dust and heat of Mexico to the snow and ice of Sweden; hot, grippy asphalt in Corsica to the muddy, wet stages of Wales Rally GB, it’s a huge test of Michelin’s technical innovation because there is still the need for different compounds and tread patterns, depending on the type of event.
“Having that direct development link from track to street is the key,” continues Tim Hoare. “Our tarmac-spec rally tyre, for example, is a highly developed version of our high performance Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyre. We also have new gravel spec tyres under development, so nothing stands still.”
And as Michelin clinched a 25th Manfacturer’s World Rally title, that has to be the clearest proof possible of its continuing commitment to Total Performance for all of us.
THE LITTLE AND LARGE SHOW
Last month, Michelin took on one of its biggest challenges ever (although you might argue it was actually one of the smallest)! Deep in a Cumbrian forest, M-Sport WRC driver, Ott Tanak, put his M-Sport Fiesta RSWRC to the test against a 1/8th scale, nitro-powered model of his M-Sport Fiesta RSWRC. To find out which of the two is quickest in this unique challenge, hit this link…
WIN AN EXCLUSIVE WRC PACKAGE!
Top Gear has two VIP places up for grabs with M-Sport on next month’s Wales Rally GB! This fabulous prize includes tickets to watch final day action, overnight accommodation and a unique chance to go behind the scenes as M-Sport drivers, Elfyn Evans and Ott Tanak, challenge for victory on the final round of the 2015 World Rally Championship. To enter, head to this link.