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Michelin Claims Tyre Theft

Michelin has claimed that one of its tyres was stolen from the Rally Japan service park earlier last month and has warned rivals not to copy it

The French company believes a Michelin Z BTO tyre was taken from the service and could reveal their trade secrets.

The Michelin Z BTO tyre made its debut at last April's Rally New Zealand and helped Sebastien Loeb win his second world title. The French company has vowed to keep a close eye on the competition to see if anybody runs a similar tyre in the future.

A Michelin statement said: "The Michelin Group considers acts of this sort to be extremely serious and unreservedly condemns such acts of industrial and technological espionage.

"Michelin will consequently be keeping a careful eye open in case a BTO clone turns up in the World Rally Championship in the course of the next twelve months and will keep the sport's governing body informed.

"Michelin will not be able to forbid the use of such a tyre, but it will request that a thorough analysis is made of such a clone, the results of which will then be compared with the figures relating to the benchmark BTO (analysis of the 'footprint', longitudinal and lateral force measurements, examination of the casing fibres and compound).

"If it is proved that the tyre has been copied, the information will be made available to all the parties involved in the World Rally Championship."

Aime Chatard, manager of Michelin competition's rallies programme says that by studying a tyre, many of the companies' secrets could be discovered.

Chatard said: "It is clear that a few hours of detailed analysis of the BTO will reveal all its secrets. Furthermore, this tyre - serial number 00330539 - was mounted on a rim and equipped with ATS mousse. The whole package is therefore a mine of information."

Michelin supplies tyres to Citroen, Ford and Skoda.

It is not the first time such an incident has occurred to Michelin this year. A Superbike motorbike tyre was taken at Mondello Park following a break-in.

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