Wednesday | 16 Jul 2014

Test concerns over new Michelin tyres

Teams preparing for Neste Oil Rally Finland (31 July - 3 August) have limited availability of Michelin’s new LTX Force tyres for pre-event testing.

The French firm, which supplies all the leading WRC teams, has used its joker to introduce the LTX Force in gravel and asphalt trim for the second part of the season. Finland marks its debut.

Shipping deadlines for the final long-haul round in Australia allied to the demands of the Le Mans 24 Hours race mean the testing allocation is less than teams hoped for. M-Sport, which tests its Ford Fiesta RS in Finland next week, has just 36 tyres for five days.

“We will concentrate on Mikko (Hirvonen) getting a good set-up with the suspension with the new tyres,” said M-Sport tyre engineer George Black. “That should provide a decent basic set-up for Elfyn (Evans) and Robert (Kubica), but they might have just four new tyres for their test.”

It is expected the soft compound S4 will be most suited to Finland’s smooth roads, but the harder H4 will be available if the weather is hot or the surface cuts up badly during the first pass.

M-Sport tyre engineer George Black

Black said because the S4 had also been designed for November’s Wales Rally GB, when conditions could be cold and muddy, it could prove too soft for Finland.

“We will have to do some serious back-to-back work with the previous tyre to make a good comparison. It’s not an easy position to be in. It maybe the new soft compound works well in Finland but it’s one of those things we don’t know,” said Black.

Michelin believes the new 15 inch tyres will carry over the strength and wear rate of the Latitude Cross, which was used for the final time in Poland last month, as well as brining improved grip.

“The new Michelin LTX Force S4 and H4 have completed a thorough test programme and this event will give them a chance to showcase their potential and also give our driver partners the confidence they need to reach the finish,” said rally manager Jacques Morelli.

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