Round 3 of the 2009 WRC, Cyprus Rally kicks off on March 13
To reduce competitors costs Pirelli will run only gravel tyres, including the Friday asphalt stages, which will present a new challenge for drivers and Pirelli alike.
Milan, March 6th, 2009 - Returning to the WRC after a 3 year absence, Rally Cyprus has a dramatically changed format, making it unique in the 2009 Championship. Based in Limassol, the first day of the rally will be run on asphalt stages before reverting for the final two days to the more traditional Cypriot rough and dusty gravel stages.
To save the competitors the additional costs of transporting and mounting both asphalt and gravel spec equipment for their cars - for example asphalt wheels are 18" diameter, gravel wheels 15" - Pirelli has at the request of Ford and Citroen and in cooperation with the FIA agreed to supply only gravel tyres, in hard compound specification, for all of the rally, including the first day which will be run 100% on asphalt surfaces.
In preparation for this controversial challenge Pirelli have tested their gravel tyres on asphalt with both Citroen and Ford in order to confirm the issues of performance and wear. These tests took place in Southern Spain and in Sardinia in an effort to reproduce the temperature conditions that might be found in Cyprus.
Mario Isola, Pirelli's Rally manager, said: 'Obviously this is a very demanding situation for our gravel tyres and surely the skills required from the drivers will be somewhat different. There is surely less grip but everyone has been surprised by how well the tyres stood up in the tests. At the end of the day it is the same for everyone and the tests confirmed that there was no real safety issue involved. In some ways it could be viewed as a return to 'old-style' rallying where the equipment was less specialized and the skills of the driver were more dominant'.
In order to maintain security the rally regulations have been modified to allow an additional 4 spare tyres per vehicle for the first day, these tyres being available for each crew in the refuel area.
Thus the top priority crews will have 46 tyres for the event, including the shakedown, whilst the P3 and non-priority drivers will have 29. The Junior World Rally Championship drivers will uniquely be supplied with asphalt tyres for the first day, but their total tyre usage for the 4 days must not exceed 24.