After taking the lead in the world rally driver’s championship in Sardinia last week, Sébastien Loeb will adopt a more aggressive driving style when he starts this weekend’s gravel event in Cyprus from the front of the field.

After taking the lead in the world rally driver’s championship in Sardinia last week, Sébastien Loeb will adopt a more aggressive driving style when he starts this weekend’s gravel event in Cyprus from the front of the field.


Loeb has won the previoous two events, in New Zealand and Sardinia, proving that Citroën and tyre supplier Michelin has stolen the march on rivals Subaru and Pirelli. The Citroën Xsara WRC was also competitive on the hot gravel Mediterranean rallies last year, with Loeb inheriting victory in Cyprus, finishing second in Greece and winning in Turkey.


“In Cyprus, being first on the road isn't easy," Loeb said. "It can even be a big handicap on Friday's opening loop. The stages are the same as 2004 and I hope they don't cut up too much. Last year we had the impression that they were just as we had left them after two runs in 2003. The fact that I'll serve as road sweeper on Friday implies that I'm leading the championship. For that reason I'd be happy to start every event first on the road."


The Frenchman admitted that he learnt a tough lesson when he lost out to title rival Petter Solberg in the closing stages of last year's British Rally. Loeb was leading the forest event by 3,5 seconds with two stages to go, but lost out to Solberg by 5,7s because he had been too cautious in the final stages of the event.


This year, Loeb has had to push harder due to increased competition from Solberg and Subaru, but the Frenchman has ended up with a more impressive win and points tally as a result.


"For sure, it has been a good start to the year," Loeb said. "Better even than last year. In 2004, our third win, which came in Cyprus, was awarded to me after the event. This year I scored my third win in Sardinia after a straight fight with my closest rival, just as I did in New Zealand. Perhaps the difference is that I force myself more to increase my lead once I'm ahead in order to be less prone to the sort of unpleasant surprise I suffered in Margam."


"It's good to win against Petter," Loeb said of his close friend and biggest rival. “I've never been scared to fight him head-to-head. I know when I put in a faultless run over a stage and, if he finishes well ahead of me, then I know the only thing for us all to do is to work even harder. Perhaps that's what he's telling himself at the moment. But the table can turn quite quickly again. That's why we can't afford to ease up in the slightest way, and that's also what's making this year's championship so interesting."