by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 174
RALLY >>> FEATURE ready to show to the FIA on November 1. We had already done quite a lot of work on the gravel tyres for national championship events but we hadn't made a winter tyre at all at that point and only some tarmac tyres but they were not the road-legal ones. But we got everything done the day before the tyres were due to be presented to the FIA. Someone ended up driving from Carlisle to Paris to deliver them to the FIA! Then we had to have the production tyres ready for the Swedish Rally at the end of January 2011. Between September and the end of December, we just worked flat out, building moulds, making samples, flying tyres over to the UK and various other destinations and testing them. The initial design of tyres was not the end of the story. That is when the development started... You are allowed to use a ‘Joker’ (opportunity to change certain aspects of the design) through the year. The first year (2011) we were only allowed to use one joker all year, that was one joker either for asphalt or gravel. In 2012 you are allowed to use two joker changes, one for gravel and one for asphalt. Michelin used their 2011 joker quite early in the season on account of the punctures their gravel tyres were having. Right from the start we went for a really strong, puncture-resistant tyre even though the spin-off of that is that the tyre is slower, you can't have the two. At the time when we all did our presentations to the FIA there was a belief at Michelin that they would be up against Pirelli, so they would have had to make faster tyres rather than stronger tyres. When Pirelli left the scene, Michelin soon realised that they had to make a stronger tyre. It was as early as Jordan that they bought out their 2011 joker tyre, while we were able to wait to the cool and damp Wales GB at the end of the year before we produced our special tyre suitable for the event. The difference between the old system that Pirelli used (2008- 2010) and the current system is that in the old system it was the same specification tyre for gravel everywhere. When Michelin came along they asked the FIA to allow a limited supply of emergency tyres for unexpectedly different conditions. Do you think that was over-reacting or do you think this change of rule has made it better? I personally think it has made it a lot more interesting. I think the rules are going to change again for 2013. You are going to be allowed more emergency compound tyres (16 rather than 10) and I think it will make it a lot more interesting again. If you look at what happened in Argentina 2012, Michelin nominated the hard compound as their prime tyre but we nominated our soft tyre which meant that our crews only had 10 hards and theirs only had 10 softs. We ended up getting a very very good result in Argentina because of that. I think it just adds a little bit of spice to the whole thing. People actually talk about tyres! The total number of tyres that crews can use in 2013 is going to be reduced, however. Should drivers use hards or softs? Even if they know they will not have enough to go round for all the event, drivers will always want to use softs – that's how they are. Heading into 2013, presumably you are already doing a lot of development work? We are, we've just done our first test in Lapland for the Swedish Rally on frozen gravel, because that was our downfall in Sweden this year, though we had a very good tyre for the first year, 2011, when it was very heavy snow. When there was frozen gravel the compound was just too soft and the studs moved around and started to come out. We've been working very hard on that. We've got a good tyre for Monte Carlo. We basically build the tyres in China and then we send them to Sweden to get studded for their rally and for Monte Carlo. We are then doing a test the day after Rally Spain, near Barcelona, with new gravel tyres for 2013 and then we will be constantly pushing the development of the asphalt tyre for the second half of 2013. We will go to Monte with the same specification tyres as we did in 2012 but then we'll have new version tyres for the next asphalt rally, in Germany and onwards later on the season. Thinking about the successes your users have had, what have been some special successes for you? Obviously the PCWRC win with Martin Semerad on our very first rally in Sweden (2011) was a nice moment. But the highlight for 2011 for me was when Ott Tanak drove on our tyres in Rally GB. It was his first time in a WRCar and the lengths we had gone to developing our new special joker tyre in a short space of time and to go to the rally and be competitive, that for me was the highlight of the first year. For Tanak to be third fastest on the longest stage of the rally when all the top guys were still in the rally, that was just a fantastic moment for me and for the whole team back in China and everybody who worked in the UK. We're coming up to Catalunya where you've got two WRCars, Novikov and Prokop, that is like another step forward for you? Yes. By the end of 2012 we will have had WRCars using our tyres on eight of the events this year, but Catalunya is definitely a new challenge using our tyres on a World Rally Car on tarmac. We haven't done a tarmac event before with our tyres with top level drivers, so we just need to know where we are. You can do all the testing, everything you can do, but until you actually do a rally and find out where you are in terms of competitiveness, I don't think you'll ever learn. So we just have to take the plunge and do it. It might work, it might not work. But we're prepared to do it. Do you think you have the chance of being with a registered manufacturers' team in the world championship in 2013? I think the only way we'll ever do that is if our tyres are much better than the competition; only then will people know that we've got an advantage and go for our tyres. Michelin is a fantastic competitor and being better than them is the only way we'd be able to do it. Based on the size of our business I do not think we can get to that stage but if we can manage to make the tyres competitive or even better than the opposition, I think a lot of people could go with us. Not unachievable, with a bit of luck? I don't think it’s unachievable, but it is our goal at the moment. We've got a five-year plan. 2012 is year two. We have already done what we said we were going to do this year, try to finish in the top five of a WRC event, which Martin Prokop achieved when he finished fourth in Argentina. 2013 is year three when we want to have WRCars on every round of the WRC with a two-car team. Finally, working into years four and five I would like our tyres to be competitive on all of the rallies and finishing on each rally in the top five with competitive drivers. 42 GPWEEK.com // 42 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: