Mikko Hirvonen says he feels the next round of the World Rally Championship in Cyprus this weekend will provide a unique challenge thanks to fact it will run as a mixed-surface event.
The opening day of the event will run on tarmac before switching to gravel for leg two and three, with Cyprus becoming the first mixed-surface rally in the WRC since 1996.
The difficulty will come from the fact that regulations dictate that crews will be forced to use Pirelli gravel tyres throughout the weekend and will therefore tackle the tarmac on day one on the 'wrong' tyres.
With that in mind, Hirvonen and Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala carried out extensive testing in Sardinia ahead of the event but the 28-year-old said he expected a tough weekend as the teams face up to the challenge of the third round of the year.
“It's going to be difficult but a lot depends on how hot it is,” he said. “The temperatures during our test were about 10ºC and the tyres worked well. The car moves around more on gravel rubber and it's necessary to turn into corners earlier and to brake sooner. It's difficult to predict what will happen because we've never had to do this but I'm ready for the challenge.
“I found a good set-up for the gravel stages during the test. The stages in Cyprus are so twisty that there are sections where a driver thinks he's going too slowly. But to push too hard risks the car sliding wide and losing momentum. It's important to be patient and believe that other drivers are having just the same thoughts. It's said a lot, but this rally is unique in the championship.”