Although BFGoodrich and Peugeot have already secured their third IRC manufacturers' crown together, the fight for the 2009 Drivers' title between Kris Meeke and Jan Kopecky promises to go down to the wire. The outcome of the IRC calendar's penultimate clash, the Rallye Sanremo, could
well prove decisive in the scrap that opposes them.
The celebrated Rallye Sanremo stands out as the season's last asphalt round, and the 51st edition of the great Italian event – which begins on Friday, September 25 – has attracted a glittering line-up of sealed-surface experts.
Indeed, they're all there - with the exception of the big favourite, that is, namely last year's winner Giandomenico Basso. The Italian is effectively no longer in the running for the drivers' title and has consequently been entered by the Abarth team for Greece's ELPA Rally in order to defend his European Championship chances.
"The 108-strong entry features no fewer than 24 S2000 cars," observes Jacques Morelli, the manager of BFGoodrich's IRC programme. "In addition to the usual IRC front-runners, there is also Belgium's François Duval, who has been recruited for the occasion by Abarth, as well as the Italian Championship regulars who are always competitive on home soil.
"The competition is just as fierce between tyre manufacturers, too, and not simply in the S2000 category," Morelli adds.
BFGoodrich's mission is further complicated by the fact that the Rallye Sanremo is probably the toughest asphalt round of the year as far as tyres are concerned.
"The stages are narrow and twisty, but there are also some awesomely fast sections with steep drop-offs to the side! The surface tends to be abrasive, but it can also become very slippery if the conditions are damp, or under the tree canopies," Morelli explains.
"The weather is frequently unsettled and tyre choices – which have to be made in the service area by the harbour-side in Sanremo – can be difficult, and potentially decisive," he pointed out.
BFGoodrich will have some 1,900 tyres for the weekend, with the full customer-competition rally range available for its partners, from the dry weather A110 (extra soft compound), A03 (soft), A11 (medium) and A31 (hard), to the M01 rain tyre. The patterns of all these tyres can be 're-cut' to match them to the prevailing conditions of the moment.
The total competitive distance of this particularly compact route is 201.81km, which includes such Sanremo legends as Monte Ceppo and Colle d'Oggia, as well as the Monte Bignone loop that will be run in darkness.