M-Sport head to the Tour De Corse this weekend, round three of the of the 2017 World Rally Championship leading both the drivers and constructors championship. In the build up to the event, we heard from their tyre technician George Black.
How long have you worked with Malcolm and the M-Sport team?
I’ve worked with M-Sport since its foundation back in 1996, but my history with Malcolm goes back a lot further than that. I’ve actually been working for Malcolm and Malcolm Wilson Motorsport since 1986.
What does your job entail?
To put it simply, my job involves managing and controlling everything to do with the wheels and tyres on events. Away from the events, I organise all of the test roads and associated planning. Previously I had also been the test team manager, but handed the reins of that particular role over earlier this year to give myself a little more time at home!
How demanding is the Tour de Corse when it comes to tyre selection?
It’s extremely demanding and the change of date won’t make it any easier this year. As we all know, the European Springtime can be very unpredictable and it is not uncommon for the weather to change overnight. When that is coupled with forecasts that are unique to the island, it becomes even more challenging and we can often be subject to varying conditions on the same stage.
There might not be many stages at next week’s rally, but they are all of substantial length which offers its own demands in terms of durability and performance. Then we have the different surfaces. The older Tarmac is typical to the Tour de Corse – very abrasive and hard on the tyres – but then we also have newer, resurfaced roads which aren’t dissimilar to what we experience in Catalunya.
All of these factors have to be considered when making every tyre selection, and that’s what makes the Tour de Corse such a demanding rally for crews and team alike.
How are tyre selections made on events?
On sealed-surface events all of our P1 crews have a safety crew who drive through the stages a couple of hours in advance of the rally going live. They’ll be looking for any change in the conditions and provide our first indication of the situation out on the stages.
In addition to this, we also have meteo crews on every stage – and on long stages like what we will see next week, we could have three or four at varying points through the same stage. Their job is to give us the most up-to-date information by looking at the roads themselves as well as the air temperatures and cloud formations.
Once all of this information has been collated, myself and the engineers – and the boss of course – will sit down to analyse the data and formulate what we believe to be the best strategy. We’ll then relay our suggestions and all of the information to the crews. Ultimately, it is the crews who make the final decision, but we do everything we can to make it as straight forward as possible.