BFGoodrich Proves its Rallying Mettle in 2007
US tyremaker BFGoodrich claims a long motorsport heritage, entering the motor racing history books in 1915 when it became the first tyre manufacturer to enjoy victory two years in a row at the ‘Brickyard’, home of the Indy 500 race. More recent accomplishments in a variety of championships have cemented the brand’s sporting credentials, and today BFGoodrich retains a reputation as being a tyre of choice for those seeking both a sports-oriented image and performance.
During 2007 the Michelin owned tyremaker was active at the highest levels in four key areas of motorsport: The World Rally Championship, the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, Intercontinental Rally Championship and Rally Raid events, including the famous Dakar Rally.
Although the role of official WRC tyre supplier goes to Pirelli as of 2008, this year’s season has provided a range of driving environments in which BFGoodrich tyres once again proved their worth, delivering competitive performance on tarmac, snow, ice, gravel and sand – perhaps the toughest possible test for tyre technology. Following Rally Japan in late October the Championship has gone right down to the wire, with Citroen and Ford locked into the tightest of duels for the manufacturer’s title, and only four points separating Marcus Gronholm and Sebastian Loeb in the driver’s rankings. Fans will need to wait patiently for Rally Wales, to be run between November 30 and December 2, for this near deadlock to be resolved once and for all.
Eugene Donnelly secured an impressive fourth Irish Tarmac Rally Championship driving on BFGoodrich g-Force tarmac competition tyres developed for competitors in the WRC. Facing fierce competition throughout the year from championship rival Mark Higgins and even coming up against WRC competitors such as world champion Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen, Donnelly and co-driver Paul Kiely closed out the season with as strong result at the final round, the Cork 20 International Rally Championship, where he brought his Reid Transport-BFGoodrich Subaru WRC machine home in fourth place, giving him enough points to clinch the 2007 crown.
Going into the event, Donnelly and co-driver Paul Kiely held a nine-point advantage over closest rival, Mark Higgins, but as the final event of the season offered one and a half times the normal points haul, Donnelly needed to ensure Higgins was no more than two places above him in the final result. Drawing on his experience from past years on the rally, including a victory in 2004 and second and third place in 2005 and 2006 respectively, Donnelly brought his Reid Transport-BFGoodrich Subaru WRC machine home only one place behind Higgins. The event was won by World Champion Sebastien Loeb, driving a BFGoodrich-shod Citroen.
“It’s been a fantastic season,” said Donnelly. “The BFGoodrich tyres have really been an advantage for me this year and the tyre technicians have provided me with some invaluable data through the season to enable me to get the most from the tyres.”
BFGoodrich brand manager, Andy Williamson was delighted with his man’s result: “BFGoodrich would like to congratulate Eugene on the fantastic achievement of winning his fourth Irish Tarmac crown. Eugene’s victory complements our success in the WRC and supports our claim of being the world leader in rally tyres.”
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge is a new, nine round rally series for cars complying with the FIA’s S2000, Group N and Kit-Car regulations. With competition from other tyre manufacturers in this discipline, BFGoodrich is set to secure the inaugural driver’s and manufacturer’s crowns.
With the final round to be held in China between November 9 and 11, still a week away at the time of writing, two BFGoodrich drivers are presently in contention to put their name on the inaugural IRC trophy. Spain’s Enrique Garcia Ojeda (Peugeot) currently tops the Drivers’ standings on 47 points, ahead of Andrea Navarra (Abarth), whose win at Valais in Switzerland boosted his score to 42 points. The g-Force Profiler series of rally tyres, featuring varying compounds, tread patterns and “re-cut” special stage treads, are used in this new and growing series, one that BFGoodrich sees as a brilliant new showcase and training ground for driving talent.
With 20 consecutive BAJA 1000 wins, 31 years of domination of the American off-road scene, nine FIA cross country World Cups since 1998 and a total of eight Dakar wins to its name, few would argue about BFGoodrich’s qualifications as a tyre manufacturer when it comes to world class rally raids. Since 2002, BFGoodrich tyres have been undefeated in the Dakar Rally, the world’s most celebrated cross-country rally. This record is all the more remarkable as the BFGoodrich All Terrain T/A tyres are off-the-shelf products rather than specials made solely for competition. The results obtained using these production tyres have earned them a global reputation amongst off-road sporting enthusiasts as well as with professional manufacturers’ teams.