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Manufacturer of tyres for the defending champions of the NEC Australian Rally Championship and the most successful brand in the history of the World Rally Championship, Michelin, will partner the Pirtek Rally Team in 2007.
The Pirtek Rally Team will run two Super 2000 Ford Fiestas for Michael Guest and Mark Stacey as well as Darren Windus and Jon Mortimer. The NEC Australian Rally Championship begins at the Coates Rally Queensland on 31 March - 1 April.
The announcement to partner with Michelin aligns the Australian Ford operation with the BP-Ford World Rally Team which runs under the sister brand BFGoodrich Tires.
"Being involved with the Pirtek Rally Team further strengthens the Michelin brand in Australia," said Wil Hui Michelin Motorsports Manager.
"Our range of competition tyres for rallying has been praised by many competitors all over the world. We are positive the Pirtek Rally Team will enjoy the benefit of not just the product but also our dedication to service and support.
"For Michelin we are delighted to be involved with a professional Ford team and an operation that's competing in the all-new Super 2000 category. We have worked with all-wheel-drive rally cars all over the world for nearly 30 years, so we are confident of providing the best outcome for the Pirtek Rally Team."
Pirtek Rally Team Chief Engineer Glenn Rees is looking forward to the Michelin partnership.
"Tyres are critical in any form of racing, but in rallying the tyres have to not only provide performance but also outstanding strength and durability," said Rees.
"Michelin clearly gives us all these things.
"Michelin's dedication to making this partnership work has me very excited about what we can achieve together.
"The range of tyres that Michelin offers means that we can compete on any event and in any type of condition full of confidence.
"We have literally had just a handful of days off since November designing and building these two Ford Fiestas. We are the first team anywhere in the world to run the Fiesta as a Super 2000 car. This has generated plenty of interest, including Michelin, who are clearly looking forward to these cars competing."
Driver Michel Guest has used Michelin tyres at World Rally Championship level.
"I'm very pleased to be working with Michelin again," said Guest.
"From a driver's point of view I know the importance quality rubber means in rallying. Michelin's success speaks for itself.
"They have knowledge of all the events in Australia and their option of tyres is second to none.
"This really is great news for us."
Guest and Darren Windus have been spending time with the Pirtek Rally Team in the lead-up to the opening round in Queensland.
"What has been achieved in 18 weeks is nothing short of sensational," said Windus.
"We've had Glenn and the boys working non-stop at the workshop in Melbourne, as well as our engine manager Gavin Selth dealing with engine builders Mountune in the UK and transmission supplier Sadev in France.
"It's going to be a very busy period leading into the Coates Rally Queensland with the car being completed, but we are on track.
"There's so much potential in these cars. Once we start to improve the package, including getting the best out of the tyres - look out!"
Number allocation for the season has been announced with Guest to run #4 and Windus #5. The #4 has huge significance for Pirtek as it was their primary number as a sponsor in V8 Supercars with Stone Brothers Racing and the likes of Marcos Ambrose. The only time the Ford Falcon didn't carry #4 was 2004 and 2005 after Ambrose won the V8 Supercar title.
The starting positions for the Coates Rally Queensland have been released. Windus will be sixth car on the road, while Guest will be ninth. This is good news as both cars will enjoy the cleaner roads as they are swept by the first five cars.
The Coates Rally Queensland is based around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland township of Imbil, with the start at Coolum Beach and the Saturday evening Pacific Ford Superstage a the Nambour Show Grounds.
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