Thursday | 06 Apr 2017

Tyre strategy is a black art

The Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse is traditionally one of the toughest rallies on the WRC calendar, thanks to Corsica's unpredictable weather and varied asphalt roads. Adopting the right strategy is imperative to staying in the race.

This week's event, the fourth round of the 2017 season, is being held six months earlier than it was last year. The weather during the European Spring season can be notoriously unpredictable and that means the teams and crews could face rapidly-changing conditions when the competitive action kicks off on Friday morning.

And the length of the Tour de Corse stages is another important consideration when the teams are contemplating which tyre compounds their cars should use for the different loops of stages.

The pair of stages that will be driven twice on Friday are considerably long – 31.20km and 29.12km respectively, while the longest stage on Saturday is 48.71km. Sunday's route offers a real sting in the tail with the opening stage clocking in at 53.78km.

George Black, who has been masterminding M-Sport's tyre strategy since 1996, knows how hard it can be to get things right. He said: "There might not be many stages on this year's route, but they are all of substantial length which offers its own demands in terms of durability and performance.

M-Sport's George Black is the most experienced tyre engineer in the WRC service park

"Then we have the different surfaces. The older asphalt is typical to the Tour de Corse – very abrasive and hard on the tyres – but then we also have newer, resurfaced roads which aren’t dissimilar to what we experience in Catalunya.

"All of these factors have to be considered when making every tyre selection, and that’s what makes the Tour de Corse such a demanding rally for crews and team alike."

Tyre strategy is invariably decided after a number of key team personnel have considered the data that's made available to them in the build up to their cars heading into a given loop of stages. But it's the crews that are given the power to make the final call.

All P1 crews have a safety crew on asphalt rallies. Their job is to go through the stages and note any changes to the road or weather conditions. The teams also have weather crews positioned in the stages to provide the most up-to-date data.

But despite all of this analysis, the conditions in Corsica can change dramatically – and very quickly. History has shown that this is the point when the teams often cross their fingers and hope for the best.

"The event's extremely demanding and the change of date won’t make it any easier this year," Black added. "It is not uncommon for the weather to change overnight. When that is coupled with forecasts that are unique to the island, it becomes even more challenging and we can often be subject to varying conditions on the same stage."


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