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Michelin defends its WRC tyres

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, Mexico 2011Michelin's competition director Nick Shorrock says he is satisfied with the performance of the firm's gravel tyre following its first outing in Mexico last week.

There had been widespread concerns about punctures on the Leon-based event and Ford men Jari-Matti Latvala and Mads Ostberg were ruled out of contention with such problems, but the issue did not play such a big part in the outcome of the rally as had been feared.

Insiders point out, however, that the central American roads were nothing like the roughest gravel the World Rally Championship drivers will see this year, and seven-time world champion Sebastien Loeb says he still has reservations about the new rubber.

Shorrock defended Michelin's record, pointing out that the tyres had been made with performance in mind following the WRC's return to open tyre competition for 2011.

"We have designed this tyre to be competitive in the context of a high-level world championship rally and in order to do that we did a lot of work in 2010, knowing we needed to really respond to two basic requirements," he said.

"The first was to develop a tyre which was rapid in open competition - we didn't know who we were going to be up against this year. And two, we had to develop the tyre for new cars, lighter cars, less powerful cars and cars which the drivers themselves admit require a very different driving style to last year.

"We're pleased with where the tyres are and we're satisfied with the performance on this event. We've had positive feedback from the team and the private drivers and the performance of the tyres has added to their ability to go faster [than last year].

"The number of incidents [punctures] we've seen are relatively few and not inconsistent with a rally of this level. We're going to analyse those right now, but we're satisfied with the performance of the tyre."

Citroen driver Loeb praised the performance of the tyre.

"It's better [than last year's control Pirelli rubber], there's more grip and it's better to drive. Really good - there's nothing to say on this." he said.

"The only thing I like a bit less is the risk of puncture. I was lucky in Mexico, I had only one puncture near to the end of the stage and we didn't feel it. But that's the risk and this is not so nice to have to manage the risk because you can do nothing to stop it. Except for that, it's very good - and the durability is no problem for these tyres at all."

Michelin's competition in this year's WRC comes from Chinese firm DMACK, although both Ford and Citroen run on Michelin.

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WRC drivers pleased with new tyre