A Full House for BFGoodrich !
Following the gruelling first week of the 2009 Dakar, Volkswagen and BFGoodrich dominates the provisional podium which is monopolised by three Race Touaregs. Despite the combination of searing heat and the extremely varied terrain, the BFGoodrich Rock T/A and the new BFGoodrich All-Terrain have performed excellently on the nine stages contested so far.
Prior to the Buenos Aires start, which attracted an estimated crowd of 500,000 aficionados, the factory teams all announced the type of tyre they had chosen for the duration of the rally. BFGoodrich's partners had the choice between the Rock T/A - which is the tyre that has won the past six Dakars - and the new All-Terrain, which was introduced in 2008. Volkswagen and BMW both chose the All-Terrain (with a re-cut tread pattern in the case of VW), while Mitsubishi elected to remain loyal to the Rock T/A.
The All-Terrain appears to have had the edge during the first half of the rally with a tally of nine stage wins, despite the variety of terrains that competitors encountered on their way across Argentina, and which ranged from sandy and stony, to sand dunes and the occasional trials-like portion.
BFGoodrich's drivers reported a number of punctures, notably on the week's later stages, but many of these were due to smashed rims or virile clouts against stones or rocks, while others were the result of thorns working their way into the sidewalls.
The second week of the 2009 Dakar will see survivors take on the awesome dunes of the Atacama Desert before action returns to the same sort of surfaces seen during the first part of the event as the itinerary heads back over the Andes to Cordoba in Argentina. Tuesday's 690km Copiapo loop, which features some 100km of giant dunes, could well turn out to be decisive.
Dominique Bravy (BFGoodrich Technician): "From what our drivers tell us, the new All-Terrain seems to have the edge in sand, which is an interesting pointer for the second half of the event. We have had a number of punctures, but relatively few given the difficult terrain competitors covered in Argentina. The early leader Nasser Al-Attiyah didn't suffer a single puncture on a stage prior to his exclusion. We have taken a close look at all the punctured tyres and we have identified the cause of each one."
Carlos Sainz (1st, VW/BFGoodrich): "All our testing with the new All-Terrain tyre went very well, so we had every confidence in it from the outset. Certain stages have been tougher than others, with the surface switching frequently from hard-packed ground to sand. That made managing tyre pressures a rather complex job. I think that could well be the case again next week, but the All-Terrain is a versatile tyre. I have only had one puncture to date."
Giniel de Villiers (3rd, VW/BFGoodrich): "It's all going pretty well for the moment, but there's still a long, long way to go. The All-Terrain has worked well so far, and it has shown that it is competitive on sandy ground, too. Before the start, we opted to run with a slightly re-cut tread pattern to help improve performance on soft ground, and that was a good call. I have only had two punctures so far. One was due to a broken rim, and the other was the result of a moment's inattention on my behalf: I was having a little trouble with my gearbox and I failed to see this big rock in my path. I am confident for the rest of the event."
Provisional positions after SS9:
- Sainz / Perrin - VW - 33h 26m 07s
- Miller / Pitchford - VW - + 19m 52s
- DeVillier / VonZitzewitz - VW- + 22m 58s
- Roma / Cruz - Mitsui - + 22m 58s
- Gordon / Grider - Humer - + 22m 58s