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Retreaded tyres in Africa
Written by Tomasz Łukasik   
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Was printed in: Wyprawy 4x4 - May 2007

Test of the Uragano tyres produced by Wolf

The El-Chott Rally is one of the longest and the hardest rallies in the world, both for people and equipment. My Toyota took part in two editions of this rally, not without some very serious losses. I have prepared her for the next edition in a fully professional way. Everything went smoothly, except for one, however vital, element. I have not had any tyres and it was impossible to use the ones from the previous year.

Wherever I went, I just heard one answer, repeated like mantra: “no” or “not in this year”. The budget of the rally was quite tight so it was not easy to make a decision on buying new set of tyres. It was then, when I called the PPH Janpol company and asked whether they would like to support us with a set of retreaded tyres for a test during a desert rally. They responded positively and we were talking right away about the kind of tread and size of the tyres. Our decision was ridiculed by many “colleagues”. Some said that we would need two sets of spare tyres. Others that we would not make far on such tyres, because the retreads will disintegrate even before the prologue. As it turned out, they were wrong.

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Difficult beginnings

The beginning was not perfect. The tyres were hard to balance and the mechanic in Schlossgarage, Toyota Service in Liechtenstein, wanted to give up. It simply lacked space on the edge of the rim for the weights – so we used larger weights and after a while we were able to balance all 6 tyres. The euphoria did not last for long, because we observed one more worrying symptom. After pumping the tyre to the pressure of 3 atmospheres a thin line, thickening in some places, appeared on the tyre – it looked like a crack on the line of retreaded tread. But it was too late to change our mind or tyres. With hearts in our mouths we went to Genoa, where we were bound to board the ferry, going to Africa and then another couple of hundred kilometers on the hot, African asphalt to Gafsa. We inspected the tyres in Gafsa – and surprise- nothing has changed. The crack on the line of the retreaded tread was still there, but the tyres did not change their characteristics, they were only heated up a lot from the asphalt. As a part of preparing for the next day’s prologue, we lowered the pressure to 1,5 atmosphere and went peacefully to sleep.

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In practice

The prologue was a very fast stage on changing surface (rock, gravel, dirt) with sharp turns and passes over wadis (dry river beds), which are always connected with hard hits on rocks, sometimes even with jumps and landing on the rocks. At the end of the stage, there was a couple kilometers long straight road covered with gravel and large rocks from time to time. We reached the finish line on a high speed, the result must have been good. Our service team checked the tyres at once – it turned out that everything was fine. It was like that to the end of the rally.

The tyres survived all kinds of torture, prepared by this kind of rally, including ride over sand-dunes with the pressure of 1,5 atm. and then quick sprint over several dozen kilometers of gravel-rock surface without raising pressure. The tyres were so hot that they smelled with burned rubber but the tread did not disintegrate. On the rocky stages we were driving very fast on sharp stones, what could be seen on the treads but we never cut the tyre on the sidewall or on the tread. We were not able to make the tyre come off the rim when cornering, even with pressure of 0,7 atm. Therefore I grade their durability very high. During the whole rally only one tyre was slightly damaged, we put her off as a spare tyre just in case. It is a very good result, as the stage was very devastating.

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Objective evaluation

What concerns the sole tread and effectiveness of the Uragano tyres is the fact that during the whole rally they behaved like a typical, good Mud Terrain tyres. The compound is quite soft which resulted very good on the rocky stages and very fast stages on the hard surface. Unfortunately, on the rocky fragments we could observe progressing wear of the tread. We had no objections towards behaviour of the tyres, their driving and traction on the fast corners. I was most afraid of their behaviour in the sand. Many people say that the MT’s are not intended for such use and as many say that the MT’s are the best. I belong to the second group.

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I was afraid of the sand-dunes, especially because comparing to the previous year we decreased the size of tyres and this tread has never been tested in the sand. The stress was even greater when we reached the serious dunes. This place marks the spot where the high speed ends and the real fight with sandy desert begins. The sand-dunes begin with the small ones, divided by patches of hard ground and after a while they get really big and they pose a real challenge. After driving for several dozen kilometers we spotted an outline of the oasis, which was near to the finish line. This sight empowered us with energy and even though the oasis was a couple kilometers from us, we reached it quite fast. Right after the finishing line we had an afterthought that our anxiety about the tyres was groundless. They did really well, even though at the finish line they were piping hot.

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Final evaluation

The Uragano tyres were tested in extreme conditions during one of the longest desert rallies. They survived extreme tortures on fast stages with sandy, dirty, gravel and rocky surfaces as well as on “cheese-graters”. We have not had an opportunity to test them in sticky mud, because it simply does not appear in the desert. Our test included drive through the Alps on twisting mountain asphalt roads and hundreds of kilometers over the hot asphalts of Africa. After this test I can recommend the Uragano tyres with full responsibility to anyone who wants to go to Africa and to the ones who are looking for good MT tyres for a reasonable price. Uragano are not flawless but one cannot expect them to be better than the original tyre. They are hard to balance and due to unknown reason the sand gets between the bead and the rim which makes the tyre leak the air. Quite often, after sandy stages, we had to pump the tyres and when we had the possibility, cleaning the bead. These little inconveniences were compensated by good driving on the all abovementioned surfaces and quiet run on the asphalt. My general thought is that the price/quality ratio here is very favourable and the tyres are worth recommending. What is more, the service provided by the PPH Janpol on the territory of Poland is exceptional.

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We were not the only ones who were pleased with the tyres by Wolf. Many other European teams have tested their products in quite challenging circumstances. Each time they passed the test. The Czech Cross Country Rally Champion ES Team is using them now, as well as Roman and Peter Stanovsky, who won on the Wolf tyres the title of European Champion in the All-Terrain Vehicles Trial in Finland.