This weekend's Rally New Zealandis going to be especially difficult for the teams and tyre manufacturer Michelin. The rally is taking place in New Zealand's winter, which means temperatures between five and fifteen degrees are likely – as is rain. This will mean a compromise from Michelin as softer compound tyres are needed to deliver maximum grip, yet the aggressive stages requiring rubber that is robust and durable.
For that reason, Michelin have nominated their hard-compound Latitude Cross H1 tyre for the WRC round, as Jacques Morelli, manager of Michelin's rally programme, explains: “We faced a tough decision because of the threat of rain; should we provide hard tyres because of the abrasive stages and accept the fact that the cars would slide a great deal, or should we favour the softer rubber for extra grip but more likely to suffer in the aggressive conditions? After speaking to the teams, we opted for the hard compound. However, to ensure maximum safety, the drivers will all be given the choice to use up to ten soft-compound tyres as an alternative.”
The drivers will be able to use five tyres per tyre-change opportunity, plus a further allocation of five tyres for the shakedown stages, meaning a total quota of thirty-five tyres. As mentioned before, the rally crews will be able to choose between the hard compound tyre which is the official nominated tyre for the rally, and the alternative softer Latitude Cross S1 tyres.
Despite this seemingly large allocation of tyres, depending on the weather there are a large number of conceivable strategies for the teams, and should the weather take a turn for the worse and the rally ends up being wet, the drivers will need to be extra careful in managing the small number of soft tyres they have available to them for the weekend.