The Cyprus Rally, next month's third round of the World Rally Championship season, is the only mixed-surface event held this year. The first day stages will take place on asphalt, while Saturday's and Sunday's stages will feature the customary gravel roads.
Only one type of tire can be used during the event. This rule was implemented in an effort to save costs. There were more than a few team directors who worried about the gravel tire’s ability to endure the wear of racing upon heated tarmac. Tests were ordered to verify the durability of the hard-compound gravel tire.
Pirelli's Scorpion gravel tire was tested by Citroen earlier this month in Spain, and Ford did the same in Sardinia recently.
"Splitting the tests worked better for us because we had the possibility to test in two different environments," explained Pirelli’s Tire Manager Mario Isola. "In Spain we had a twisty and abrasive road while in Sardinia we decided to use a faster road with long corners and smoother tarmac."
The Ford and Citroen teams were both satisfied that Pirelli's gravel compound can withstand the strain of racing on the 135 kilometers of asphalt roads making up the opening day of the Cyprus Rally.
But, if these tires will hold up, then why is Pirelli offering an extra pair of tires following the completion of Friday's first and fourth special as a precautionary measure?
Whether the Pirelli gravel tire withstands the pressure of asphalt racing on the first day of the Cyprus Rally or not will garner the most attention. Either way it should make for entertaining watching to see the some of the world’s best rally drivers sliding as they struggle for grip.