The right tires are essential for WRC
Just before the start of the Rallye de Monte-Carlo on the evening of January 25, British driver Kris Meeke was happy to discuss with us how important tires are in the performances of his Citroën C3 WRC.
It was also the opportunity for him to take a look back at his convincing win at the World Rally Championship (WRC) in early October 2017 in Catalonia and also his visit to the Michelin factory in Catarous a few days before, on September 26, 2017.
That is where the tires used in the WRC are manufactured. Kris Meeke and the Citroën Racing development teams could see how the rally tires are manufactured and meet the site’s employees.
He also did a demo at the wheel of his WRC C3 in the factory’s alleys on a specially laid out circuit between the buildings.
How important are tires in how you drive?
The right tires are essential for WRC. Every rally has its specific characteristics with different surfaces. It is therefore very important to have the right tires for the right surface. For some rallies, like Monte-Carlo for example where there’s snow, ice and tarmac, it is difficult to choose a tire that adapts to everything because you can encounter the three surfaces during the same stage of the race. The most important thing for me is to choose the tire that will give me the most confidence behind the wheel.
How do you see your role in tire development?
Michelin does test and development sessions with all the drivers about a year before the tires are available for the WRC. It’s during these sessions that the real work is done. We use that time to discuss, share our opinions and feedback our feelings to the Michelin engineers. They listen to us because they know that they’re getting the best feedback possible.
So how do you work to improve your tires? On what? Grip? Feelings? With whom?
For the WRC, each team has a dedicated Michelin technical correspondent that travels and works with it throughout the year. It has to be someone who understands the driver and the information the driver feeds back. It is a very trusting relationship. My technician, Michel Ducher, and I have been working together for a long time and he perfectly understands the feelings and sensations I have behind the wheel and can then improve my tires. The main objective is to get the best grip.
In your opinion, does this work influence retail tires?
In motorsports, everything evolves quickly all the time. Day after day, engineers are continuously pushing the boundaries to make better tires, using new materials, new structures... I think these developments in motorsports then benefit retail tires by providing better grip, more solidity and by lasting longer.
Monte-Carlo 2018 video
Kris Meeke behind the wheel of his C3 WRC, testing his tires