Thursday | 21 May 2015

Tyre tactics loom in Portugal

The first WRC round in northern Portugal since 2001 could become a tactical battle around tyre choice, leading drivers believe.

Vodafone Rally de Portugal features a mix of soft, sandy roads and harder, abrasive tracks. Michelin, which provides rubber for the top teams, has nominated its hard compound LTX Force tyre as the prime choice, with the soft version as an option.

Sandy roads favour soft compounds, but with temperatures forecast to reach 25˚C and Saturday’s two groups of stages covering over 80km each, drivers must consider compromising speed for durability by opting for hard rubber.

Each driver has 16 soft tyres and 24 hard covers. They can use 24 tyres during the event – four at each of the five changing opportunities plus four spares – which means there is insufficient soft rubber in a driver’s allocation to select new tyres at each change.

“At the moment it looks like soft tyres might work well, but Michelin has nominated the hard tyre so we might see some strategy as well,” said Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.

Championship leader Sébastien Ogier said he expected a big difference in the condition of the roads between the morning loop and the afternoon repeat pass.

Michelin provides both hard and soft compound rubber

“We know soft tyres are faster up to a certain point, up to a certain distance and to a certain temperatures and we have to manage that. We don’t have much experience here. When we came for the test two weeks ago it was raining so it’s not so easy. We will have to trust our experience from other rallies in the past,” he said.

Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen predicted drivers could opt to use soft tyres for more than one group of stages.

“I do believe it’s a soft tyre rally,” he said. “It’s difficult to say for the second pass but we found out on our test that the softs can cope with quite a lot. We saw in Portugal last year that a used soft is still faster than a new hard tyre.

“We only have 16 and you have to make them work as well as possible over the whole event."

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