Duval creates history as Ford celebrates Turkish delight. Ford Rallye Sport driver FranÃ§ois Duval claimed a career best result today when he and co-driver StÃ©phane PrÃ©vot finished third on the Rally of Turkey in a Focus RS World Rally Car.
Duval creates history as Ford celebrates Turkish delight.
Ford Rallye Sport driver Fran?ois Duval claimed a career best result today when he and co-driver St?phane Pr?vot finished third on the Rally of Turkey in a Focus RS World Rally Car. Twenty-two-year-old Duval became the youngest driver to claim a podium position in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship and the result was all the more remarkable as this was the first occasion on which the two Belgians have competed together.
Team-mates Markko M?rtin and Michael Park added to Ford's joy by finishing sixth in another Focus RS and ensuring a double points haul for the team. The 27-year-old Estonian now lies fourth in the world championship with Ford maintaining third in the manufacturers' standings.
An extremely wet winter ensured the gravel tracks on this third round of the 14-event championship were so rough that just 27 of the 60 starters completed the four days of competition, covering 337.88km in the mountains of southern Turkey. Conditions were so bad that organisers twice had to make major revisions to the scheduled route in the last week and the seemingly constant rainfall in the past few months required them to repair some sections of road up to six times before the start.
Ford Rallye Sport's points haul on such a tough event enhanced the reputation of the Focus as a strong and dependable car which thrives in rugged conditions. It was the car's 17th consecutive finish in the points and a fitting end to the career of the 2002 Focus RS WRC which will be replaced by the 2003 model on round four in New Zealand next month.
The partnership between Duval and Pr?vot was formed less than two weeks before the start of this rally and Pr?vot's remarkable achievement was recognised when he was named the Inmarsat Star of the Rally, winning $US5000 for a charity of his choice. The 34-year-old will donate the money to UNICEF.
Having started today's third and final leg in third, Duval delivered a mature performance through the final five speed tests. He took no risks to finish 1min 46.5sec behind winner Carlos Sainz and 58.6sec behind second-placed Richard Burns, but his pace was such that he still claimed one fastest stage time this morning.
"Team director Malcolm Wilson told me this morning to continue driving as I have been all rally and that's what I did," said Duval. "I drove to avoid the rocks and the Focus has again been perfect today. I felt very relaxed until the final two stages when I became quite nervous. It helped when Carlos, who was my team-mate last year, came up to me before the final stage and told me to keep calm and take no risks. He's been under pressure so many times in his career that there's nobody better to receive advice from.
"Before the start my aim was to finish but it was just as important to build a good relationship with St?phane on our first rally. We worked well together and I'm as pleased about that as I am about the result," added Duval, who climbed to eighth in the drivers' standings.
M?rtin recovered superbly after a broken shaft in the gearbox cost 3min 30sec early on the opening day. Despite a poor road position for the entire rally, which left his Focus RS running close to the head of the field and inadvertently sweeping the loose gravel clear for the benefit of those behind, he set two fastest stage times after charging back up the leaderboard from 12th position.
"We made no mistakes and proved ourselves to be very competitive here even with a bad road position, but we lost too much time on the first leg to have a better result. I think we've done a good job. We've driven carefully and kept out of trouble and I'm happy to be fourth in the championship. I would give us nine out of 10! I've enjoyed a really good 16 rallies with this Focus and I'm now hoping that the 2003 car will be faster and just as reliable. The signs are good."
Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the outcome of the rally. "It's a dream result for Fran?ois especially after his difficulties in the last few months. St?phane was a big influence on this result but Fran?ois knows that his work is only just starting now. He now has to live up to this performance. I'm disappointed for Markko because so many people thought he was capable of winning here and his stage times proved that was the case."
News from our Rivals
Carlos Sainz (Citroen) cruised through the final day to win his first rally for the French manufacturer, for whom this was their first gravel victory with the Xsara on a world rally. The win was Sainz's 25th world rally success, moving him level with team-mate Colin McRae at the top of the all-time list. With McRae finishing fourth, Citroen extended their lead at the head of the manufacturers' championship to eight points. Second was sufficient for Richard Burns (Peugeot) to move into the lead of the drivers' championship, a point ahead of McRae and two clear of Sainz. The persistence of world champion Marcus Gr?nholm (Peugeot), who lost time on leg 1 with power steering problems, was rewarded when he moved ahead of Freddy Loix (Hyundai) on the penultimate stage for the final manufacturers' point.
The championship now heads to one of the drivers' favourite events. The fast, flowing and smooth roads of the Rally New Zealand (11 - 13 April) are regarded as the best rally stages in the championship calendar. The North Island's largest city of Auckland hosts the event.