29 May 08
Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb have warned that this year’s Acropolis Rally of Greece will be one of the hardest tests yet for Pirelli’s hard compound Scorpion control tyre.
The rough and rocky roads of the Acropolis Rally have already earned it a reputation as a car-breaker. But speaking after the pre-event recce, the championship leaders both warned that this year’s stages were some of the roughest ever seen.
The Acropolis has always been hard on tyres, with punctures - or the ability to avoid them - often playing a significant part in the final result.
This year will be the first that all the WRC crews will be on the same rubber - Pirelli’s hard compound Scorpion. And with anti-deflation systems outlawed for 2008 nobody knows exactly how the new tyres will hold up to the punishment.
“It’s really rough this year; more than the previous years,” warned defending champion Sebastien Loeb. “For sure it will be difficult for the car and the suspension. For the tyres, okay, we have more experience. At the start of the year we saw there were not many punctures, I hope it’s the same here. It would be difficult if there are punctures.”
BP-Ford team leader Mikko Hirvonen said he expected Pirelli’s tyres would be in for a rough ride when the rally got underway on Friday. “For the tyres this rally is going to be definitely one of the hardest of the year,” he said. “It’s very hot and very abrasive, especially on the long sections uphill in the mountains with the rocks and the bedrock - it’s going to be the ultimate test for Pirelli.”
Pirelli’s Rally Manager, Mario Isola, accepted that the Greek round of the WRC made unusually tough demands on its tyres but insisted the Scorpion was up to the job.
“The Acropolis Rally is certainly one of the most important events of the whole season for us, as it is amongst the most demanding of the entire 2008 calendar,” he said. But I’m convinced that even on the harsh rocks of Greece, where Pirelli has shone in recent years, the hard compound Scorpion tyres will be able to demonstrate their qualities - particularly in terms of strength, which was already evident in Mexico and Jordan.
“It’s true enough though that in Sardinia the rain that fell before the start of the event made the stages less punishing than what was expected. This should not be the case in Greece, as the rocky surface is almost certain to remain abrasive and treacherous throughout all three days of the event," he added.