Sebastien Loeb has not ruled out the potential for a tactical approach to tomorrow's opening day of Rally Australia – but the five-time champion insists it would be a last resort.
The New South Wales roads, being used for the first time in the World Rally Championship, are covered in loose gravel, which will hamper the first man on the road and hand the advantage to those running further down the field.
Starting the event behind his chief title rival, Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, Loeb is best placed to slow down at the end of days one and two to ensure Hirvonen has the worst of the conditions through Saturday and Sunday. But despite his favorable position in Australia, Loeb is a long-time critic of the use of tactics and would prefer not to do so this weekend.
"I don't want to talk about using tactics," he said. "It's too early to say now what will happen. If I have the chance to take the lead then I'm going to take it. Since the start of the season, we have seen that the driver who is going fastest and leading is winning the rallies. This [winning from the front] is the best solution."
Despite blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s for the last few days, weather forecasters are talking of overnight rain tonight – which would bind the loose gravel together and hand the advantage to Hirvonen.
"Rain would definitely help me," said Hirvonen. "I'm going to be doing that dance."
Loeb is chasing his first win since Rally Argentina in May, but he admits that – despite his place on the road – beating Hirvonen on a fast gravel event is going to be tough.
"I did win a kart race in the summer," said Loeb, "so I have been on the top step of the podium recently, but I need to find a better place to do it. I need to come back and win a WRC round again. Like we saw in Finland on the last rally [where Hirvonen won], Mikko is hard to beat on fast gravel."