Rally Catalunya 2005: Michelin
By finishing first and second in this weekend's Rally RACC Catalunya– Costa Daurada with Sebastien Loeb
and François Duval, Citroën-Michelin clinched its third consecutive Manufacturers' world title today in Spain. In stunning form once again
despite the stages being made particularly hazardous by the weather conditions, the two-times World Champion Sebastien Loeb
(2004 & 2005*) picked up his tenth win of the season, a new record, while François Duval (Citroën-Michelin) and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford-Michelin) made it an all-Michelin podium.
Although the penultimate round of the 2005 season ended in bright sunshine in the seaside of resort of Salou, south of Barcelona, the weather conditions were changeable for much of the weekend and this made getting tyre choices right both difficult and crucial. Once again, however, the Michelin N (dry weather) and TA (wet) tyres proved a perfect match for the delicate conditions.
The Catalonian sky turned all possible shades of grey during the opening leg of Spain's WRC round and, at 7:20 a.m. Friday, the first competitors set off from the Portaventura service park in a shower… on dry weather tyres! For just 60 km from there, in the mountains that overlook the Costa Daurada, the roads were perfectly dry.
“In the second loop of two stages, the first test was entirely dry and the second all wet. I chose my tyres as a function of the second stage," explained Sebastien Loeb
later. “Soft compound Michelin Ns were the right choice, even though Dani Sola was fastest over the loop's first stage on medium compound rubber."
By the end of the first leg, Sebastien Loeb
(Citroën-Michelin) had pulled out a cushion of nearly 1 minute over his team-mate François Duval and exactly 1m 11s over Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot). In SS3, Petter Solberg (Subaru) broke his steering after hitting a bank, while his French team-mate Stéphane Sarrazin went off later in the day, his Impreza catching fire.
Leg 2's stages were just as treacherous, but that didn't stop the two factory Citroën drivers reinforcing their advantage at the top of the leaderboard, while Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) retired from 3rd place when his engine failed in the day's very last stage. That all but handed the Citroën- Michelin team its third Manufacturers' title in as many years, enabling Michelin to win six world crowns from a possible six in 2005, in F1 (Renault, Alonso), MotoGP (Yamaha, Rossi) and WRC (Citroën, Loeb).
The Citroën pair weren't alone in making a name for themselves this weekend in Spain. After finishing 2nd in Corsica last week, Toni Gardemeister (Ford-Michelin) was running a promising 4th at the end of Leg 1. Unfortunately, a stone jammed between his rim and brake calliper deprived him of brakes for an entire stage on Day 2 and the Finn fell back ten places. Roman Kresta (5th, Ford-Michelin) put in some top times despite this being his first attempt at the event, while privateers Mikko Hirvonen (3rd, Ford-Michelin) and Xavi Pons (4th, Citroën -Michelin) took their share of the limelight.
The scrap for 3rd place between this pair was effectively the highlight of the final day. “My tyres were too soft this morning," said Hirvonen who dropped from 3rd to 4th on Saturday evening after receiving a 20-second time penalty. “Yesterday, I made a perfect tyre choice for the first loop and that enabled me to move up the order." The Finn eventually made sure of a podium finish when Pons stalled his Xsara on the start line of the final stage.
In the Skoda-Michelin camp, Alexandre Bengué posted some very quick times, inc luding a 4th quickest on SS8, before being sidelined by gearbox problems on the following stage. For the final round of the 2005 championship in Australia (November 11th-13th), Armin Schwarz will team up with Colin McRae who steered his Fabia WRC-Michelin to 6th place in September's Rally GB.
The Rally RACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada was also a chance for Michelin Competition to mark the retirement of its Director Pierre Dupasquier. Team representatives, drivers and media were all present at the Michelin motorhome on Saturday evening to join Edouard Michelin, President and CEO of the Michelin Group, in thanking Pierre for his 30 years of loyal and successful service at the helm of the firm's competition department.
Press release Michelin Competition