Michelin will be the primary tire supplier in the World Rally Championship next year, as the return of open tire competition to the sport sees the French company come back to the stages after several seasons of a Pirelli monopoly. Michelin's motorsport boss Nick Shorrock relates his views of the company's progress so far.
Q. There has been some speculation about some punctures, some early development issues with the tires, but overall the teams seem pleased. What do you think?
Nick Shorrock: I think what you say is right, but when we decided to go into the World Rally Championship we committed a dedicated team to this project and we will continue to work on this. We're very pleased with the program and the way things are going. Rally is very important to us as a company, it's rally which is closer than any other discipline to the normal road-going products.
Let's rewind a little bit, Michelin has an ongoing development program across all of the sporting disciplines. In July, when we began working on the return to the WRC, we knew there wasn't a lot of time ahead for us [before the start of next season], but even though we have been away from WRC we have not stopped the year-in, year-out developments. We know we have still got some work in front, but we are looking forward to the start of next year.
Q. To that end, Jean Todt has talked of his desire to see one set of tires being used for a whole day or even for a whole event. Is this possible?
NS: Why not? Let me put this into some context for you. In 2005 and 2006 at Le Mans, the teams using our tires were doing a stint of 160 kilometers, coming in and changing tires and drivers. In 2010, the winning Audi car was able to do four stints, that's 650 kilometers on one set of tires without any impact on the other parameters such as safety or lap times.
Q. You talk about wanting more competition next season, but Citroen, Ford and Mini will all run on Michelin. Isn't that essentially a control tire scenario?
NS: It's very good of you to say that they will all run on our tires, but we haven't confirmed our partners for next year yet – despite there being a lot of supposition. We want open competition in the championship, that's why we are here. The regulations suit us well and the conditions are right. We'll have to see who runs our tires.
Q. What's the commitment from Michelin?
NS: We're not in this for the short-term, we've returned to the WRC and we're looking at a longer-term program. Our vision for the WRC is to run in a competitive series where we can show the technical ability and performance of our tires. At the same time, we want to demonstrate how we can have less of an impact on the environment with our tires. We're ready to contribute to the show and the great spectacle that is the WRC.
But one of the great spectacles from tires in the WRC was some of the classic tire battles on events like a wet-dry Corsica or snow and ice Monte. Without the ability to change tires and force those choices, how do you contribute to the show? By making sure that all of the teams and drivers are on the right tire.
Obviously, the regulations state that we can't change tires so often as we used to, but you don't do that in every day life, so why do it in the WRC? This is another way which makes the sport closer to everyday drivers on the road. There's going to be plenty of sparkle and entertainment in next year's championship and we'll contribute to that.