Mexico : BFGoodrich - Preview
BFGoodrich returns to Mexico - the country that has provided the backdrop to some of its finest moments in motor sport - as provisional leader of the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship. Indeed, last November saw BFGoodrich tyres collect their
twentieth consecutive victory in North America's legendary off-road competition, the Baja 1000.
This weekend, however, it's neither buggies nor pickups that BFGoodrich will be supplying on Maya soil but WRC machinery, and the tyre challenge will obviously be very different. Over the wide, technically demanding stages of the Leon region, the aim will be to optimise traction and to limit by how much the cars slide.
As the first gravel round of the 2006 season, Rally Mexico is eagerly awaited by WRC followers to see if a tendency emerges for the campaign ahead. Despite the two successes so far of Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen and their Ford Focus WRC/BFGoodrich, the Monte Carlo and Swedish Rallies were both so untypical of the rest of the calendar that it is difficult to read any sort of definitive pattern into their results.
Rally Mexico, which is based in Leon and the mining town of Guanajuato, a UNESCO world heritage site, features high altitude stages (culminating at 2,737m) and wide tracks that permit spectacular power slides. However, although welcomed by spectators, such slides can cost valuable time...
"For Mexico, the drivers want tyres that give good traction with no variations in wheelspin even at high angles of steering lock," says Aimé Chatard, BFGoodrich's Rallies Programme Manager. "Maintaining the ideal speed enables them to control how much the car's rear slides by adjusting the amount of power being delivered to the wheels. That said, a car that slides, even progressively, is often a car that is not at its most effective, and therefore not at its quickest."
Drivers with an asphalt style who like near-racing lines want rear-end stability and therefore seek to restrict how much the rear slides to be able to re-accelerate early out of corners. BFGoodrich's tyres won over the drivers during testing by their ability to do just this.
The picture is likely to be complicated this year by the return of mechanical differentials which spells the end of active diff control which took some of the strain off tyres. In addition to vertical travel and weight transfer, the latter will now have to deal with the resulting loss of wheelspin control which could result in excessive wear.
"This weekend, the WRC elite will therefore need to manage their tyres carefully. We will have to wait until the end of the second pass through the 73km loop of stages to see how well they all cope with this," states Aimé Chatard.
Rally Mexico has traditionally not been kind to the defending WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb
"In 2004 I was leading when I damaged my sump after a heavy landing. Last year, a suspension mounting broke shortly after the start, although I succeeded in fighting back from 18th to fourth place overall," said Loeb. "For this rally's wide stages, I want my tyres to be progressive, with good lateral bite, especially at the rear. This year, we will also have to manage tyre wear since not having active differentials promises to be more of a handicap on the loose. That said, our tests with the g-Force Gravel in Spain proved very encouraging."
E.A. Source BFGoodrich