Q & A: Ford on Argentina tyre issues

Having to use Michelin's soft gravel tyres on asphalt roads on this year's Rally Argentina has been the major talking point of this weekend's World Rally Championship round

Q & A: Ford on Argentina tyre issues

AUTOSPORT asked Ford's tyre engineer George Black to explain the challenge of the last two days.

Q. How much of a stress has it been on the soft tyre to run on asphalt?

George Black: The biggest stress was actually trying to get the regulation sorted before this event started. We've known since December that these asphalt sections were coming, and I looked at the roads in January.

Yesterday's section, I wasn't concerned about the tyre wear. Yes, the road was stupidly fast, but the cars came straight from the stage to service. My concern was for the second section, today's stretch of asphalt. You could not do that 21-kilometre stage [Las Jarillas] and then continue on the same tyre and do another 60km of gravel stages on the same tyre. We explained this to the organisers and they put another remote tyre service in after that first stage this morning.

Q. That made everything more simple then?

GB: Yes and no. We had the opportunity to fit new or different tyres after Las Jarillas, but we've had to really juggle with the tyres because of those two extra fitment points - one this morning and one this afternoon. The original package was for 36 tyres across shakedown and five fitments points [at service], but now we have seven fitment points and still only 36 tyres - which is why we've been juggling the tyres from the superspecial and shakedown.

For example, the tyre package Jari-Matti [Latvala] will go out on for the first stage this afternoon came from shakedown on Thursday. It was a blessing in disguise that he had his broken gearbox on Thursday: it means he only did two runs at shakedown and we were able to save those tyres. After that stage, Jari-Matti will have new tyres for the rest of the afternoon.

But, I've got the likes of Ken Block, who took two spares every time yesterday and used those two spares as well and I'm now really starting to struggle to put the tyre packages together for him for the first stage this afternoon.

Q. Some of the tyres were coming back in looking very well worn, how would they have performed when they were effectively slicks?

GB: The grip on the asphalt wouldn't have been an issue because you're relying in compound grip and, as long as the conditions are dry, it would be okay. There was visible tread on some of the tyres, but it was just a shadow. But on the Michelin you have two millimetres of compound rubber below the visible tread - and that last two millimetres actually lasts a remarkably long time.

When the road is clean, you don't need a lot of mechanical grip, you need compound grip. Obviously, that's quite different if you go off the clean line and onto the marbles, do that and you'll be all over the place.

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