Michelin has revealed that it is looking to return to the World Rally Championship next year after a six-season absence, with the FIA's decision to allow open tire competition in the series again giving the French firm a new opportunity.
The French firm's competition director Nick Shorrock (left) explained Michelin's plans to AUTOSPORT.
Q. Presumably you have spoken to Citroen, Ford and Prodrive? How has your potential return been received?
Nick Shorrock: We have spoken to all three and they have expressed different concerns. One of those is about the treatment of partners. If we have more than one partner next season, both would be treated absolutely fairly. That's the modus operandi of Michelin. It's absolutely vital that we do this, nobody will get special treatment.
Q. There's an assumption that an association with Citroen is a given. Is that a fair assumption?
NS: The link between the supplier to a competition department and the supplier of original equipment is more of a social link these days. The days of it being as given that, if you supply road car tires you're going to be putting the tires on the competition cars are over. It's about compatibility on both sides [for Michelin and Citroen].
Q. We hear you have been testing this week?
NS: We have been testing rally tires, but not specifically for the World Rally Championship. We have a very strong connection with rally as a whole, through the IRC [Intercontinental Rally Challenge] and through national and regional championships and we're always looking to develop those products.
Q. Can you understand the fears about the potential for rising costs if a tire war resumes in the WRC?
NS: We hope to encourage people more in the direction of open competition. We can maintain managed costs and that comes through the way the rules are set up and the way the rules are allowed to develop.
The competition side is very important for Michelin to demonstrate its technical prowess. The tire competition is a strong point of the IRC and we haven't seen a cost explosion in that series; the [car] manufacturers and we like open competition in rally. As a company we are always looking for ways to develop our competence in competition.
Q. A return to the WRC would mean a return to the global stage for Michelin. How important is it to be back at the front line of world competition?
NS: Any competition we are involved in, we look to be successful in our supply of product to partners.