IRC: BFGoodrich Istanbul Rally preview

From Byzantium to the People's Republic The 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge is poised to kick off in Istanbul on April 4, marking the start of the series' second season which is scheduled to end in China next November. This year's IRC ...

IRC: BFGoodrich Istanbul Rally preview

From Byzantium to the People's Republic

The 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge is poised to kick off in Istanbul on April 4, marking the start of the series' second season which is scheduled to end in China next November. This year's IRC promises to be a thrilling affair, with the factory Abarth team looking to win back the Manufacturers' title from Peugeot, while the top European drivers can expect stiff opposition from several former World Championship stars in the battle for the Drivers' crown.

The Intercontinental Rally Challenge is an international series which permits open competition between tyre manufacturers and is consequently a key championship for BFGoodrich which took both titles in 2007. This year again, a long list of runners have chosen BFGoodrich tyres in their bid to secure top honours, while the American tyre firm has also introduced the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation which is based of five rounds of the series starting in May.

"The IRC has a bright future ahead of it," says Michelin Competition Director Frederic Henry-Biabaud, "since it allows competition not only between carmakers but also between tyre manufacturers, as well as the fact that it benefits from strong media coverage and care is taken to keep costs in check. The competitive context also makes the IRC a genuine challenge for BFGoodrich in technical terms, so we need to supply our partners with the very best customer competition tyres. This development of tyres that are freely available across the counter is of direct benefit, too, to BFGoodrich drivers who compete in their home championship, and also to customers who use BFGoodrich tyres on a day-to-day basis since there is a very real technological carry-over from our customer competition range to our road tyres. We are very much looking forward to the 2008 season..."

Two continents, two seas

Following the cancellation of the Safari Rally after the unrest in Kenya early in the year, the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge starts on April 4 in Istanbul, on the Asian side of the world's only city to straddle two continents..

The route of the Istanbul Rally takes in the regions bordering both the Marmara and Black Seas and is essentially based on that of the 2007 event which won the favours of the IRC fraternity thanks its wide, undulating stages which twist between pine forests, bougainvillea and camellias. "I enjoyed this event last year," says Peugeot Team Belux driver Nicolas Vouilloz. "That's not only because it enabled me to score my first IRC win after having to fight my way back up the field, but also because the stages are magnificent; very fast and challenging. Apart from the odd rougher portion, they are not particularly hardwearing on tyres but they do tend to be covered with a persistent top-coating of loose gravel, so it is necessary to 're-cut' our tyres to enhance grip."

Abarth versus Peugeot

The 2007 event was marked by an exciting showdown between the factory BFGoodrichshod Abarth Grande Puntos of Navarra and Alen and the Peugeot Spain-entered Peugeot 207/BFGoodrich line-up which finally won the day with Vouilloz. Abarth will therefore be out for revenge this time round with Giandomenico Basso (2007 Italian Championship) and Anton Alen. Their main opposition is likely to come from Peugeot Team Belux's Freddy Loix (89 WRC starts) and Nicolas Vouilloz (2007 IRC runner-up).

"The scene is set for the first encounter of the season," confirms BFGoodrich's IRC Programme Manager Jacques Morelli. "Although the date has been brought by a month compared with 2007, our experience of this event has enabled us to optimise the tyres we will have and also the service we provide our partners." Following Thursday evening's ceremonial start in Fenerbahce, competitors will get their first taste of competitive action the next morning.


Five rounds of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge will see BFGoodrich and Kronos Racing join forces to give a selection of drivers a chance to contest their home round of the IRC in a Peugeot 207 S2000. The operation begins with the Rally de Portugal (May 8-10). The Portuguese federation will produce a shortlist of five drivers, BFGoodrich and Kronos Racing will then narrow that list down to three and the lucky driver will be chosen by a jury of journalists in the middle of April.

Although it has been renamed the Istanbul Rally this year, the Turkish event is celebrating its 37th edition in 2008 and has long counted towards the European Rally Championship. Its route underwent extensive changes in 2007, however, since it was formerly an all-asphalt rally until 2006.

BFGoodrich will have 932 tyres on the event trucked out in three semi-trailers. Three technicians will attend the rally to assist BFGoodrich's partners in their tyre and 'cut' choices.

The organisers of the Rallye d'Ypres (Round 3 of the IRC) have announced their intention to run a 42km stage! Given the traditionally unsettled weather that is a hallmark of the Belgian event, tyre and 'cut' choices at the service park could well prove decisive.

The Algarve holiday resort of Faro is to host a 2km asphalt super-special through its streets to mark the start of the Vodafone Rally de Portugal (Thursday May 8). The regulations specify that competitors must tackle this asphalt stage on gravel tyres, since the rest of the rally takes place on dirt.

The Rallye Coeur de France, a French national event based near Tours, has applied to be included in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. BFGoodrich has decided to support the organisers of events looking to be part of the IRC by offering tyres to drivers in exchange for the payment of a small sum to the organisers.

A long list of national championships kicked off in March and BFGoodrich has already claimed several successes. The International Circuit of Ireland was won by Eamonn Boland (Subaru WRC), with further victories coming on Italy's Rally Ciocco and the East Belgian Rally with Freddy Loix (Peugeot 207)

-credit: bfgoodrich

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