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GP Week : Issue 136
“I neveR even saw the spike. “It must already have been bent down horizontal. The spike penetrated the front bodywork and went straight into the tyre.” This was the shocked response of the SWRC’s categor y leader Juho Hanninen, after he punctured on SS3, a victim of one of the road-side steel spikes. This immediately handed the lead in the category to Ott Tanak, who found himself nearly a minute ahead of Eyvind Brynildsen, who was desperately trying to complete a rally for the first time in year. By SS11, Hanninen had pulled back from last place up to second, but then he went off the road and removed a wheel. Back to the back again, but still in a points gaining position. Nasser Al Attiyah had another awful event. Off the road on stage 1, broken throttle cable bracket on Day 2. Hanninen’s Skoda Red Bull team- mate Hermann Gassner had a terrible time on Day 1 with brake troubles, and then on the first stage of Day 2 he had a crankshaft sensor fail. Gassner traced the problem and repaired the car, only to go off the road heavily later in the stage and hospitalise his co-driver Katharina Wustenhagen. Tanak held his lead to secure his third win in the SWRC this season. the 2011 Rallye de France was the last time that rally cars would have to drive over gravel sections of special stages on asphalt tyres, before rules are changed in time for 2012. Jacques Morelli, Michelin’s World Championship tyre manager, stated his company asked the FIA to stop this system on safety grounds. “ We have a unique design of tyre, which we had to develop the year before when we did not know the style of the individual events. Next year’s tyres will have to be finalised in November this year. As a result of the uncertainty the FIA took the decision to ban the use of gravel sections on stages on asphalt rallies.” The championship rules for 2012 say that gravel stages may include a limited amount of asphalt content. The Catalunya Rally will have both asphalt and gravel or mixed stages, but with time for suspension changes to be made in between. There were 10.30 kiloemtres of gravel sections on the stages of Rallye de France – and there would have been another 8.52 kilometres before a gravel stretch on Stages18/21 was removed from the route. In the planning for the 2011 Rallye de France, the organisers addressed the problem of mud on the road. When these stages were used on the event last year, in damp and wet conditions, large quantities of mud were thrown across the sur face of the road as a result of drivers cutting corners. Very slippery conditions resulted. This year, steel spikes were placed at locations where there was perceived to be a risk of corner-cutting. This decision was very controversial. Sebastien Loeb was reported to have deliberately driven his recce car into spikes to see how dangerous they were in reality. It is reported he smashed the oil cooler on his car. There were suggestions that Michelin had asked for anti-cutting system to be incorporated, assuming this was in response to the spate of punctures caused by corner cutting on the asphalt Rally Deutschland. Morelli anxiously reputed this claim. “No, the idea of stopping corner cutting was to reduce the amount of mud on the road.” Super 2000 WRC – Hanninen’s performance spiked Gravel and Spikes in France WRC FRANCE >> 41