FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
The Rallye Monte-Carlo is the round of the FIA World Rally Championship that arguably provides competitors with the broadest spectrum of surface types and where tyres can play the most decisive role. It is also the only round where Michelin makes available four types of tyre. A complementary factor to the car/driver package, tyres are a variable that repeatedly make a real strategic difference given the influence of the weather and state of the roads on this event.
A successful transitional season
The 2017 season saw the introduction by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) of new technical regulations. The resulting latestgeneration World Rally Cars are not only more powerful than their predecessors (between 380 and 400 horsepower, compared with 330hp previously), but they also feature more advanced aerodynamics, as well as an active centre differential.
As a result, they are more spectacular and deliver higher performance. But this in turn puts additional constraints on tyres. In anticipation, Michelin’s engineers took these changes - and the resulting higher cornering and longitudinal (acceleration and braking) forces – into account when developing
the firm’s new WRC tyres. These included the MICHELIN LTX Force S5 which was first seen in Mexico in 2017.
We modified the tread compound of this gravel tyre to cater for the increased efficiency and performance of the new cars. If you compare the LTX Force S5 [‘S’ for ‘soft’] with its predecessor, we can assure you that it reaches its working temperature just as quickly, and that is crucial for the early part of stages. It is also more consistent and, above all, performs even longer. Indeed, wear rates are down 20 percent in identical conditions.
Thanks to this work, Michelin’s new WRC tyres delivered a winning cocktail of performance, safety and longevity in 2017 and the LTX Force S5 soon emerged as a favourite with the drivers who were won over particularly by its versatility. It repeatedly proved the most competitive compromise, whether on the barren mountain stages of Rally Mexico, on Finland’s sandy, high-speed dirt roads or in muddy Wales. The 2017 season enabled Michelin’s partners to collect the data they needed for their decision support software. When it comes to the highly complex process of choosing tyres for a given stage or loop of stages, the engineers of each partner team benefit from the assistance of a Michelin team advisor.
Michelin’s team advisors: a vital role
Michelin’s team advisors play a fundamental role throughout the season, both on events and during testing. On rallies, the drivers always have the final word when it comes to tyre choice, but Michelin’s team advisors are on hand to provide advice concerning tyre pressures, wear analysis and options thanks to their understanding of the ideal temperature windows of each solution. Their role is consequently particularly importanton the Rallye Monte-Carlo which can feature a variety of conditions in the course of a single day, and sometimes even on a single stage.
After events, on their return to their base in Clermont-Ferrand, France, Michelin’s team advisors share the data and information they collect with their colleagues who use it not only to improve the firm’s competition tyres, but also to contribute to the development of new road tyres. Michelin effectively uses all the types of motorsport in which it competes as life-size laboratories.
The 2018 Rallye Monte-Carlo: What’s new?
The route of this year’s Rallye Monte Carlo differs slightly to that of 2017 but the altitudes visited will be very similar. Given the amount of snow that has fallen in recent weeks, plus the fact that the rally is taking place a week later, it is unclear what the conditions will be like. In terms of the stages themselves, SS1 will again start after darkness, although this time it is the famous Sisteron-Thoard test, used in the opposite direction to the classic’s normal format (Thoard-Sisteron).SS2 will also run at night-time but the teams' safety crews will cover it in daylight, so there could be some surprises in store... Friday’s SS3/SS7 visits a selection of roads that haven’t been used in recent years, while SS4/SS8 ends at Col deSaint-Jean which the drivers know well as a testing venue. SS9 is entirely new.
Saturday’s terrain will be more familiar to crews, but snow is a strong probability in the Dévoluy region. The loop’s second test even passes through a ski resort (Ancelle) which currentlyboasts good snow cover. As in 2016 and 2017, Sunday’s programme will feature the traditional Col de Turini and the Power Stage will use part of the 2016 route.