27 May 08
Defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb says he’s gunning for his 41st WRC victory on the next round of the series - the Acropolis Rally of Greece.
Following a win on the last round in Sardinia, Loeb trails the championship leader, Mikko Hirvonen, by just three points. But despite acknowledging that the Greek event is not one of his favourites, this week Loeb is hoping to seal his 41st WRC victory and make up more ground on his Ford rival.
"It's true, I like round numbers, but I have nothing against adding to our current tally, especially since that would mean we are competitive and fighting for the title,” said Loeb. "In Sardinia, we succeeded in closing the gap with our rival, and the Acropolis Rally could be a good chance to reduce the deficit further still. It's not my favourite rally. These rough roads make the cars suffer, and that's not something I like.”
From six World Rally Car starts in Greece Loeb has won the event once - in 2005 - but has finished second in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Loeb has shown rally winning pace every year, but in recent editions has suffered more than most with punctures.
Last year he was involved in a furious battle with rally leader Marcus Gronholm before two front punctures on the 50km Agii Theodori stage dropped him 25 seconds and out of contention. While in 2006 he was lucky not to retire following two punctures on Saturday’s final stage. On that occasion he managed to bring his Xsara WRC back to the service park on two and a half wheels.
Unsurprisingly, given his previous tyre experiences, Loeb thinks Pirelli’s new WRC control tyres could be a major factor on the outcome of this year’s competition.
“The fact that we now have to run without run-flat mousse in our tyres could see the 2008 event turn out to be something of a lottery, although we saw in Sardinia that the Pirelli Scorpion Hard is capable of soaking up the knocks. Let's hope that will be the case again in Greece where we will be aiming for first place."