The opening round of the FIA 2016 World Rally Championship (WRC) on January 21-24 provided competitors with a broad variety of stage profiles and surface conditions which meant that having the right tire on the car at the right moment was as crucial as it always is on the uniquely challenging Rally Monte-Carlo in France. With a total route length of 1,474.34km, including 16 stages totalling almost 375km, the winter event is one of the longest rounds of the season, while the numerous, unpredictable pitfalls make it particularly tricky for the crews who need to call on every bit of their experience to reach the finish unscathed.
To help them, Michelin provided its partners with tires and a valuable technical support service. Two basic types were available this year, each available in two variants, allowing crews to take full advantage of their allocations for the week and benefit from a performance edge compared with the competition.
It was incontestably Saturday’s (Jan 23) action that was the hardest for competitors, as they faced two attempts at a loop comprising two stages – SS9/11 (51.55km) and SS10/12 (17.13km) – followed by a fifth test (SS13, 36.6km) on the run back south to Monaco. While the exceptionally long SS9/11 was predominantly dry and clear, SS10/12 featured long stretches of lingering snow and ice which made tire choices for the two loops extremely complex.
For the morning’s visit, Andreas Mikkelsen/Jaeger Synnevag (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) spotted the best option and this helped them to lay the foundations for their second place at the finish. While the majority of their opponents selected four ‘super-soft’ Michelin Pilot Sport SS5s, with two non-studded PA4 snow tires in the boot, the Volkswagen pair left service with four studded Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 CLs on their car, plus two PA4s as spares.
Unsurprisingly, they dropped time on SS9 but they went on to beat the rest of the field in emphatic fashion on the following test to illustrate, once again, how having the right tires can be a genuine game-changer on the Monte. The Norwegians won SS10 by margins of 49.3s and 54.2s respectively over team-mates Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (VW Polo R WRC) and Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) with whom they were battling hard for position. Taking the entire loop into account (SS9 and SS10), Mikkelsen/ Jaeger extended their lead over the Hyundai crew by 17.7 seconds.
The Rallye Monte-Carlo was the first competitive outing for the ‘super-soft’ SS5 version of the Michelin Pilot Sport. This new tire, which was praised by the drivers, features the same construction as the ‘soft’ Michelin Pilot Sport (S5) and was the predominant choice for the 2016 WRC’s opener.
“The new Michelin Pilot Sport SS5 fulfilled its mission to the letter,” explains Jacques Morelli, manager of Michelin’s FIA WRC program. “Given the low temperatures we saw during the event, especially at higher altitudes, it was frequently chosen by the crews who were pleased with its longevity and the consistency of the performance it delivered, even over the longest stages, like SS9/11 Lardier et Valença-Faye which was 51.55km in length.”
The variety of the Rallye Monte-Carlo stages also provided Michelin with the opportunity to showcase the versatility of its range, even though there were only two basic choices of tire and three different compounds. The event was ultimately won by Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC), ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen/Jaeger Synnevag and Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) who made it an all-Michelin podium.
Michelin supplied the following tires to the 2016 Rallye Monte-Carlo
Dry and wet conditions:
Michelin Pilot Sport S5 (soft compound): Designed for use on dry roads at temperatures below 15°C, as well as in wet conditions. First seen on last August’s Rallye Deutschland, the new Michelin Pilot Sport H5 (hard compound, not available for the Rallye Monte-Carlo) and S5 were developed with the year’s toughest asphalt events like the autumn’s Tour de Corse in France and Rallye Monte-Carlo in mind.
They mark a big step forward compared with the former H4 and S4 versions of the Pilot Sport and stand out visually through their more uniform tread pattern, which features more evenly sized and shaped tread blocks. Changes to their construction and the materials employed for their tread compound also contribute to their enhanced performance on wet and dry stages alike.
Michelin Pilot Sport SS5 (super soft compound): This tire is particularly suited to low temperatures of around or below 0°C, as well as to frosty ground. It features a softer compound but its construction is identical to that of the Michelin Pilot Sport S5. The results of testing showed that the SS5 can be worth a gain of up to seven seconds per kilometer over the S5 version in very cold conditions.
Size of the Michelin Pilot Sport S5 and SS5: 235/ 40R18 (20/ 65-18).
Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4: It has a solid competition pedigree but was developed at the same time as the equivalent road tire by a team of development specialists working out of Michelin Motorsport and Michelin’s Technology Centre in Ladoux, near Clermont-Ferrand, France. In order to cope with the constraints associated with topflight rallying, the construction of the WRC version is more robust than that of the road tire but parallels between the two include the design of the tread pattern and the materials they employ.
The Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 CL: Fitted with 200 metal studs which protrude 2mm from the tread block, the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 CL is designed for icy conditions. The studs, which weigh less than 2g each and which are short in order to protect road surfaces, are inserted using a Michelin-patented process.
Size of the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4 and PA4 CL: 215/ 45R18 (18/ 65-18).
Michelin at the 2016 Rallye Monte-Carlo
Michelin took 1,720 tires to the 2016 Rallye Monte-Carlo (900 for WRC drivers, 820 for WRC2 drivers). A total of 27 staff were at the event including five R&D specialists, four technical team advisors, two coordinators, 10 fitters and two press officers.
January 27, 2016