It was the ability to make the right tyre choice that was the overriding factor for success on the 2015 Rallye Monte-Carlo, round 1 of the FIA World Rally Championship and French tyre manufacturer, Michelin, got the formula right as their combination of tyres helped Volkswagon Motorsport to a famous 1-2-3 in their Polo R WRC.
The VW team as well as many other crews were often faced with tough decisions on tyre choice on the treacherous conditions as the wrong tyre could have disastrous consequences.
The battle in the first half of the rally was undoubtedly the contest between Citroen’s Sébastian Loeb and VW’s Sébastien Ogier. With each passing stage the road conditions seemed to change ensuring that the wrong compound choice could easily decide the result and this was proven in dramatic fashion on SS8, the final test of the second leg of the rally.
Ogier went for studded tyres in order to tackle the icy stage and the decision paid off as he won the test by almost 15 seconds. Loeb decided to tackle the stage on winter tyres without studs but slid wide and clipped a rock which eventually led to his retirement from leg 2.
Michelin found success with some of their other customers as nine of the top ten finishers all completed the event using the French manufacturer’s tyre.
There were a lot of positives to be taken from the event for Pirelli, who also supply some of the top drivers in the WRC. Czech driver Martin Prokop was the top finisher using the Italian tyre manufacturer. Prokop brought his Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in ninth with some good pace despite struggling to find the right tyre choice in the second half of the rally.
However the star of the Pirelli camp was Polish driver Robert Kubica. After retiring on the road section back to Parc Fermé at the end of the first leg the Polish driver rejoined the event the following day and set about his comeback. He won SS4 by 3 seconds and then preceded to win four more stages over the course of the event before his retirement on the penultimate stage.
The battle of tyre manufacturer supremacy was even closer in WRC2 but again Michelin came out on top as French rising star Stéphane Lefebvre dominated the event leading from start to finish taking the win by over 2 minutes over fellow Michelin entrant Craig Breen in the Peugeot 208 T16 R5. Breen had a nail biting final day scrap with Germany’s Armin Kremer, who was on Pirelli tyres. The German lost out to the Irishman on stage 14 and had to settle for third place.
The next round of the WRC takes crews to the snow filled forests of Sweden on February 12.