Hot off the back of an outstanding start to both the FIA Formula Two and FIA World Touring Car Championships, both featuring Yokohama as control tyres, the Japanese brand heads for the tortuous mountains roads of Corsica next week, for its first event in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the 2012 Tour de Corse. Yokohama is a tyre partner to the series and in 2012, will be supporting the reigning Production Cup champion Toshi Arai as he aims for a second consecutive title and up-and-coming Finnish driver, Jarkko Nikara, both driving Subaru Impreza R4 rally cars.
Arai won the 2011 IRC Production Cup title in his Subaru and using Yokohama tyres and recently confirmed his intention to claim another title this year. He will be using an R4 version of the Impreza, featuring lower weight than both the Group N version and the original specification of Super2000 rally cars, which also run in the IRC and historically have had an advantage, particularly on tarmac, thanks to their lower weight.
Nikara is no stranger to Yokohama tyres, having put in a scintillating performance on the 2011 Rally Scotland in a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EvoIX on Yokohama. He led the Production Cup category of the event from the outset and was only denied the win by a late mistake, which put him off the road on the last stage of the rally.
However, the Tour de Corse, or 'Rally of 10,000 corners' as it was known in the past, will be no walk in the park. Notorious for its tight, twisty and narrow roads, often running between a rock face and the edge of a drop-off, the event demands commitment and respect for the island. The weather conditions are also infamous in rallying - the same stage can run over mountains and therefore, can be bone dry on one side and see torrential rain on the other. As a result, tyre choice and management are crucial to success here and rallies have been won and lost by having the right tyres at the right time or vice versa.
Both Arai and Nikara will have the third generation of Yokohama's ADVAN A006T tarmac rally tyre at their disposal for the weekend. This has been developed during the 2011 season and features improvements to both the compound options and the construction itself to create the latest version.
In Corsica, there will be five compounds available: hard, for hot and abrasive stages, medium for moderate temperatures and shorter stages, soft for damp or short stages as well as a SuperSoft for longer damp stages and a 'Supersuper soft' for full wet conditions.
While the ADVAN A006T comes from the factory with a single tread pattern, the slotted 'slick' pattern for dry conditions, this can be hand-cut to suit the actual circumstances faced on the stages. For example, they might be opened slightly for damp to wet conditions and cut to the edges and between slots for a full-wet pattern.
The choice of pattern and compound relies on accurate weather data and close consultation between teams, drivers and the Yokohama technicians who will be attending the event.
Commenting, Yokohama Engineer Ian Beveridge said; "The A006T comes in the single, FIA-approved tread pattern but we can easily and quickly cut this to suit the road and weather conditions. Combined with the five available compounds, it means that we can give the teams a huge number of options to cover the conditions they are likely to face, based on the data we are given.
"The current ADVAN A006T is effectively the third generation of the tyre, as we carried out development throughout 2011. We introduced the different compounds at the beginning of 2011 and revised the construction later on in the season and are looking forward to seeing how the drivers fare in Corsica."
Head of Motorsport at UK distributor, Yokohama HPT Ltd, Mark Evans, said; "We are very excited to see how Toshi and Jarkko perform in Corsica, after their excellent performances in Scotland last year. I know Toshi has competed in Corsica before but that Jarkko hasn't but his speed in Scotland and in the British Rally Championship this year has been very impressive, so it will be interesting to see how his pace develops. I am sure that their performances will continue to inspire British competitors to choose Yokohama tyres, as it already has done, following last year's success."
The three-day, 14-stage event takes crews and teams across the island, starting in Ajaccio, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte and travelling north to Calvi before moving to the centre of the island at Corte. The final day takes in stages at the very northern tip of the island before the finish in Bastia