WRC 2017 - MICHELIN tires cover all the conditions on Rallye Monte-Carlo
The opening clash of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship saw Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia celebrate their maiden appearance for M-Sport with victory in Monaco. Varied, complex conditions ensured that the famous Rallye Monte-Carlo lived up every bit to its reputation.
The season’s difficult opener proved a tense affair from start to finish as the latest-generation World Rally Cars made their first public appearance. More spectacular and more powerful, the new machines thrilled the huge crowds that lined the event’s 17 challenging stages which provided a total competitive distance of more than 380km. As ever, the conditions were rarely consistent from one loop to the next and were even highly varied on individual tests.
We had to cover the whole spectrum of typical Monte Carlo conditions. It was cold throughout, and the crews also had to contend with fresh and melting snow, ice and frost, as well as dry and wet asphalt. This year’s Rallye Monte-Carlo lived up its promise and delivered all the ingredients expected of the rally, which in turn made tire choices extremely difficult. The teams were naturally able to count on their previous experience of the rally, but Michelin’s technicians were once again invaluable allies in the decision-making process.
While only two types of tire are available for all the other rounds of the WRC (asphalt and gravel), the unique characteristics of the Rallye Monte Carlo necessitate four different solutions to cover all the bases. The range extended from the soft- and super soft-compound MICHELIN Pilot Sport S5 and MICHELIN Pilot Sport SS5 (for very low temperatures and frost), to the MICHELIN Pilot Alpin A4 (snow) and a studded version of the latter (MICHELIN Pilot Alpin A4 CL) for ice. Choices were based on the information available about the state of the roads high in the mountains and it was frequently a case of selecting the ideal compromise for mixed conditions as a function of each stage’s profile.
It was probably the most complex Rallye Monte-Carlo competitors have had to contend with for more than 20 years. That said, some loops were more straightforward than others in terms of tire strategy. When the ground is icy from start to finish, you know the drivers can leave service with up to six MICHELIN Pilot Alpin A4 CLs, but the final word is always with the teams, and it was never easy.
In addition to choosing the best tire for the conditions, you also need to take the teams’ respective strategies of the moment into account. Depending on the drivers’ positions and start orders, tire choices can differ. One driver might want to push hard, for example, while another may prefer to take fewer risks. It’s a case of providing them with the right option at the right time based on an analysis of the risks. The number of spare wheels they carry can also differ sometimes.
The regulations allow up to two spares, but sometimes the drivers prefer to take just one for weight reasons, especially on stages where there is less risk for tires. Some teams always took two, however, whatever the conditions.
The main thing was to get all the cars to the finish. From the start, the cars always left with two spares, but often with a choice of compounds so the crews could swap if the conditions evolved. Although it was the team’s first WRC appearance, we were able to benefit from the experience of its director Tommi Mäkinen who is a four-time Rallye Monte-Carlo winner. Rallying really is a team sport.
A team sport it may be, but the job of the Technical Advisors comes with big responsibilities, since they need to be able to optimise their recommendations despite the shifting conditions.
Working with a four-time world champion effectively adds to the pressure. When Ford was chasing Thierry Neuville who led up to Saturday afternoon, it carefully adapted its strategy to meet the priorities of the moment. Its work ended up paying and the reward was victory on Sunday!
The 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo was won by Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (M-Sport) who finished ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala/Miika Antilla (Toyota Gazoo Racing/Toyota Yaris) and Ott Tanak/Matin Jarveoja in the other Ford Fiesta WRC run by the independent team M-Sport. All three cars were on Michelin tires.
The French tire manufacturer took the spoils in WRC2, too, with Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger Synnevaag. Fellow Skoda R5 runners Jan Kopecki/Pavel Dresler were second in the class. Michelin equipped Bryan Bouffier and Denis Giraudet, on their Ford Fiesta R5, claimed third position on the podium.