PARIS—Next year's World Rally Championship will be an archetypal David vs. Goliath confrontation in terms of tire supply.
The FÃ&Copy;dÃ&Copy;ration Internationale de l'Automobile has approved two companies—motorsports stalwart Michelin and relatively unknown British race tire distributor DMACK Ltd.—to supply tires for the 2011 WRC season.
Michelin said it will supply Michelin-brand tires to the WRC, reversing a decision made five years ago to shift all off-road competition activities to the tire maker's BFGoodrich brand.
The naming of two suppliers comes in the wake of a rules change that will allow open competition among tire makers for next year's WRC season, returning to that status after three seasons under a single-supplier regulation.
The rules change coincided with Pirelli Tyre S.p.A.'s appointment as the single supplier of tires for the FIA's international Formula 1 and GP2 series and Pirelli's subsequent decision not to participate in the WRC next year after three seasons as the spec tire supplier.
“Racing offers Michelin's teams the opportunity to validate their technological innovations in the most extreme conditions of use,” Michelin said. “These innovations will then be transferred to street tires, thereby helping to improve the performance balance and lower the environmental impact of Michelin's products.
“Motorsports also provide a powerful incentive for Michelin to further its mission of ensuring sustainable mobility.”
Michelin also said it supports the FIA's commitment to restrict the number of tires used in races, beginning in 2012.
The decision marks a return by Michelin to rally racing's premier-class category. Michelin competed for many seasons until the FIA made WRC a single-supply series in 2005, winning 38 world championships titles.
Carlisle, England-based DMACK, by contrast, has never contested a WRC event and started supplying tires to selected British rally events earlier this year.
DMACK's tires are made in China by Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group, the Dongying, China-based maker of the Durun street tire brand. Other than that, Shandong Yongtai apparently has no ownership stake in DMACK.
Shandong Yongtai did not release information independently pertaining to the deal.
DMACK said it will aim its supply at privateer teams and support category competitors by offering race tires at affordable prices, according to Dick Cormack, who is listed as DMACK Tyres' motorsports director. DMACK said recently it is testing its proposed WRC tires at “our research facility in China” with veteran British rally driver Mark Higgins doing the driving.
DMACK said that Cormack has 15 years of experience as a motorsports manager and product manager for a “major tire manufacturer.”
The company said it was working on having WRC-spec gravel tires available for teams to test. DMACK said the WRC tires comply with the European Parliament's REACH regulations, which require manufacturers and importers to use substances that have no harmful effect on human health or the environment.
Michelin also said it will continue to support the Intercontinental Rally Championship, where it has competed for the past three years using the BFG brand and various national rally championships using the Michelin brand.
Michelin will continue to use the BFG brand in other off-road activities, primarily those in North America.