The five-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has voiced his displeasure at the Pirelli tyres which will be used for this weekend's Rally of Cyprus. The defending champion is top of the standings after victory in the opening two rounds in Ireland and Norway but is unhappy crews will have to use the same type of tyre on all three days of a rally run over two different surfaces. The first day will be on asphalt followed by two days on dusty gravel stages, and Pirelli, the championship's sole tyre supplier, will only bring their Scorpion gravel tyres in an effort to cut costs for teams.
Loeb, who leads the drivers' standings by six points said: "It's a shame to have only done things by half. "We will be competing on asphalt with ill-suited brakes, tyres and suspension. The fact that we are starting the weekend on asphalt won't encourage us to attack, either. "What will be the point in being first overall on Friday evening? That will mean facing road-sweeping duty on the next day's loose stages." The Citroen driver is chasing his 50th WRC win in Cyprus, where he won in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Mikko Hirvonen, the Frenchman's main title rival, feels a recent mixed-surface test by his Ford team in Sardinia will stand him in good stead as he looks to hit back in the race for the championship.
"I found a good set up for the gravel stages during the test," the Finn said. "The stages in Cyprus are so twisty that there are sections where a driver thinks he's going too slowly. "But to push too hard risks the car sliding wide and losing momentum." Matthew Wilson is also hoping to pick up a positive result in Cyprus having scored points in both of the season's opening events. "I enjoyed this rally in 2006, the slow speeds make it totally different from most other rallies and it will be good to get onto the normal gravel stages on the second day," the British Stobart Ford driver said. "This rally will be something different for us and running on two different surfaces during one event is certainly a unique experience." Cyprus will also see the Munchi's Ford team make their first outing of the season with Argentina's Federico Villagra at the wheel. *PA Sport