Concerns over excessive tire wear on this weekend's Rally GB have eased following heavy rain on the opening day of pre-running for the final round the World Rally Championship.
The drivers will be using Pirelli's soft-compound "Scorpion" tire in the Cardiff-based event, and five-time World Champion Sebastien Loeb had been among those worried by the prolonged dry spell which had left the Welsh roads hard and abrasive. Loeb and his fellow title protagonist Mikko Hirvonen would both have been relieved to see the dry weather come to an end yesterday.
"The tire could have been close," said Loeb. "The roads would have been hard for the tire, but I'm sure it will rain more. It's OK."
Pirelli's motorsport manager Mario Isola pointed out that the tire had been tested in far hotter and more abrasive conditions and survived, but the onset of autumn in the valleys will offer Hirvonen and Loeb – and the rest of the drivers on Britain's round of the WRC – a chance to focus on their driving rather than on conserving their tires.
The opening test day passed without incident for the leading crews – unlike last year, when Loeb rolled his test car on the ice coming out of the Myherin test.
Citroen Junior Team driver Conrad Rautenbach said: "The first few hours of the recce were great, it was really sunny and nice warm weather, but then around lunchtime when we headed on up to the military stages, the mist came down and the rain started. The normal Welsh weather had resumed. It was actually quite heavy rain for a while – I don't think anybody is worried about the tires any more."
Rautenbach added that the drivers were all pleased to get a good run through the mid-Wales stages.
"Last year, in the snow and ice, it was tough up there," he said. "You couldn't really get a good chance to have a go in those stages on the first day of the event, but this time it's fantastic.
"The start of the Myherin stage is fabulous, you go up through these really wide hairpins – it's like being on Pikes Peak – then you come out at the top and race along the road with the wind turbines. It's like something out of War of the Worlds! I think they were there last year, but the weather was so bad we couldn't see them!"
The drivers finish their pre-runs today and shakedown starts tomorrow morning, with the main event getting underway with a ceremonial start in Cardiff tomorrow evening.