Sebastien Loeb has admitted the lack of ice on the Rally Sweden stages is a concern for him as he prepares for this evening's start of the opening round of the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Having completed his recce of the route, Loeb said he expected much of the road surface to be cut up after a handful of cars had passed over, compromising the competitors' second run at the Swedish stages. Loeb added that he expected the gravel coming through the snowy surface would cause problems for Pirelli's studded control tire.
"Some stages were already on the gravel during the recce," said Loeb. "The first stage [Likenas] is really nice with lots of ice. The rest of them are not my favorite conditions with the ice. The snowbanks are very soft, so you can't lean so much, and the grip is changing a lot. We will quickly be on the gravel and this will be tough with the tires. Let's see how we get on."
Pirelli's motorsport manager Mario Isola insisted he was not concerned by the potential for gravel coming through.
"I have seen the work we do in the development process for these tires and the system we have in place to retain the studs, and it works very well," said Isola. "This is the first year we are running the wider tire [205 rather than 145 width], so it is possible there will be some extra stress on the studs in the center of the tire and it could happen that we will lose some of these, but it's not going to be a big problem."
Isola added that the temperatures which plummeted as low as -4 degrees in the northern region of the route had caused some issues for Pirelli.
"The frozen surface with the rocks coming through will be our most difficult surface to deal with," he said. "It's going to be tough when the gravel does come out, but we have 384 studs in every tire and I'm not very worried, the performance of the tire will work well.
"Two years ago at this event, we saw much warmer conditions and the studs remained in the tire despite the gravel."