How have the new 2017 WRC cars affected tyre wear? Martin Holmes speaks to tyre consultant George Black to get the low-down.
When the FIA published rules allowing the 2017 World Rally Car to be significantly more powerful, while still imposing strict limits on the number of tyres for use on each WRC rally, there was widespread speculation that the new defining sporting factor in rallying would relate to tyre wear.
M-Sport’s tyre consultant, George Black, explained this had not been born out in this year’s competitions, so have the 2017 rules changed the tyre world?
George Black: They have not changed it so much, they have made it confusing because in 2016 our Shakedown tyres came out of the total allowed under the rally package and everyone knew what the situation was. Three runs at the Shakedown, as you know, for the WRC cars is compulsory.
For 2017, say that for Shakedown you get an extra four tyres. The conflict comes because the rules do not say if the four extra tyres should be hard or soft, or for whatever? Here in Spain there is an extra problem, of the gravel and tarmac surfaces.
Martin Holmes: Regarding the consumption of tyres, I believe that the 2017 regulations allow the engines to be more powerful, but not necessarily give them more torque. How does that affect the tyre wear?GB: We are not saying we are seeing significantly more tyre wear, because whether it be the engine regulations or the increase in down force, you are actually getting more grip and less wheel spin. So for me, I have not seen any dramatic change in the tyre wear purely because of the '17 rules, not as we feared when we saw the regulations.
MH: Have there been any examples so far this year where it has been necessary to mix compound on cars just to eke out the supply, because wear has become critical?GB: Yes, there has been a couple of times, obviously we at M-Sport have been further into mixed packages because of the running position on the road. For our guys running first car on the road on the gravel stages it's always difficult first thing in the morning, so we have been using mixed packages more for that advantage, to try and find a little bit more grip than for the guys behind.
On some occasions tyre choices have been critical. In Germany Tanak won the rally because of his tyre choice in the wet on Friday when everyone else was a bit nervous. That was the turning point of the event.
Fitting mixed compounds has normally been more to try to gain an immediate advantage rather than gain the ultimate package the rally.
World Champion Sebastien Ogier changes tyres during a break between WRC stages. Photo: RedBull Content Pool
MH: What has Sebastien Ogier brought to the team, and how has your life changed since he arrived?GB: My life has not changed. It is hard to quantify something like that. Not so much changing our tyre world because he has got his own tyre plan in his head.
Once he has done his recce he has got his own plan, and he says how he wants to play the tyre package and tends to keep that to himself until we come to put the tyres on the car, and then he will say I want this and I want that.
I don't argue with him, it's... he is always known to be good at making these choices himself.
MH: What is good about Ogier, his choices or the fact that he seems to be more sympathetic at getting the best out of the tyres?GB: A bit of both to be honest with you. I think it is more just how he manages the package of tyres he has got on the car.
When he makes the decision he’s confident that he knows what he is doing with it, and that is one thing you do realise with him when he says I want this, this and this, then that is fine.
Going back to the last event in Germany when Tanak made the choice of wet, Seb was still in service when Ott made the call to go on wets. Seb said: 'I'll go with what I have', he was confident in his choice.
MH: Does Ott follow what Ogier does or not?GB: No, he's got his own ideas of that, there is no doubt.
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