Petter Solberg says raw speed will be the decisive factor in this weekend’s Acropolis Rally, especially after Michelin launched a new tyre for gravel events to trump Subaru’s Pirelli WRC rubber.

Petter Solberg says raw speed will be the decisive factor in this weekend’s Acropolis Rally, especially after Michelin launched a new tyre for gravel events to trump Subaru’s Pirelli WRC rubber.


The defending WRC champion this week said that gravel rally experience won’t count for much in Greece, because “competition on rough rallies has definitely stepped up. Other teams have improved, and you need high speed all the time now to beat the top drivers. There’s absolutely no room for any mistakes.”


Subaru team principal David Lapworth added: “We’ve seen stages in Cyprus and New Zealand where the top four cars were separated by less than a second. We expect it to be a similar story over the next couple of events.”


Solberg is hoping that his run of bad luck on recent gravel events will soon come to an end. The Nowegian missed out in New Zealand and Cyprus following problems on the opening legs of both events. The 2004 evolution of the Impreza WRC was a pacesetter in Solberg’s hands on both rallies, however, and the Norwegian is confident that he will once again be among the frontrunners.


He will also benefit by running fourth on the road for the first day behind major rivals Marcus Gronholm, Sebastien Loeb and Markko Martin, who will be forced to sweep the stages clear of the loose gravel on top of the harder base layer.


But Subaru might not be able to benefit from the performance advantage its Pirelli tyres provided on recent roach events. Michelin is hoping that its new TDE gravel tyre, which has been developed for rough and rocky World Rally Championship events, will give its teams a welcome boost on the Acropolis Rally.


The wider TDE tyre has been designed to offer the best of Michelin’s Z and the GW compounds - by being more durable and effectively adapting over the course of a stage to give the best balance between grip and reliability.


"Its design brief was to offer a level of lateral grip close to that of the Z pattern for stages featuring a top coating of loose gravel," said Aime Chatard, rallies manager at Michelin. "At the same time, our objective was to achieve a gain of 10 percent in terms of durability over aggressive stages."


In reaction, Lapworth said that although the Michelin-supported teams could close the gap to his sole Pirelli-shod outfit on this weekend’s event, he was confident that the tyres from the Italian firm would be up to the challenge.


“I think tyres are likely to be the major performance factor in Greece – especially their ability to last through grouped stages. It’s all about finding the ideal balance between grip and wear.


“It will be interesting to see if Michelin's response to Pirelli’s dominance of the Acropolis Rally for the last few years is effective. Before Cyprus, we said that our target was to come out of the four events – Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Argentina – with more points than our rivals. Obviously, we have work to do over the next three events, and we’ll be going for the win in Greece.”