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Michelin avenged their R5 defeat on last year’s Rally Sweden, producing new tyres specially for R5 competitors and thereby winning both the WRC2 Pro and the WRC2 amateur categories. Last year WRC2 was won unexpectedly by Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta, who used tyres from Michelin’s rivals Pirelli. It was an early-season defeat which eventually led to a championship title for Skoda team’s Jan Kopecky, and defeat for teammate Pontus Tidemand, who use Michelin. This year Michelin produced the X-Ice NA01, a brand new studded tyre designed specifically for the championship’s R5 cars on this event.

2019 Swedish WRC2 winner Mads Ostberg (Michelin) and 2018 winner Takamoto Katsuta (Pirelli). Photo: Holmes

Michelin’s winter rally tyres are not equipped with studs when they leave the factory in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The task of actually inserting the studs into the covers is performed by Michelin’s longstanding partner Däckproffsen in Vaxnas, Sweden, on the outskirts of Karlstad. The team explained: “This entirely manual operation is divided into three phases: drilling of the tread blocks, placing glue in the resulting holes and inserting the studs. "The 384 steel and tungsten tips fitted to each tyre are 20 millimetres in length, but only 6.5 millimetres protrude from the tread. It takes around 45 minutes to complete each tyre.” This year’s conditions were “better” than had been expected, meaning colder and more typical. There were fewer portions of exposed dirt than predicted, though the coating of ice was quite thin at times. Best Pirelli user this year was Volkswagen driver, Johan Kristoffersson, who finished third in WRC2 amateur category.

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