Duval's best yet as Ford claims 2nd and 4th in Germany BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers FranÃ§ois Duval and StÃ©phane PrÃ©vot produced the best performance of their careers to finish second on the Rallye Deutschland today in a Focus RS World...
Duval's best yet as Ford claims 2nd and 4th in Germany
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers François Duval and Stéphane Prévot produced the best performance of their careers to finish second on the Rallye Deutschland today in a Focus RS World Rally Car. Team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park were fourth in a similar Focus RS to climb to second in the FIA World Rally Championship and strengthen Ford's grip on second in the manufacturers' series.
Duval and Prévot excelled on treacherous roads, especially during the opening two days, to win seven of the three-day rally's 24 speed tests and equal their best ever result. Torrential rain swamped the asphalt roads near Trier, in western Germany, washing mud and gravel onto the already demanding tracks to make driving perilous. Fog was an additional hazard on today's third and final leg but 23-year-old Duval revelled in the conditions and on special stages similar to those in his native Belgium.
He finished the 1075.77km route, of which 411.06km were competitive, just 29.1sec behind Sebastien Loeb, despite losing almost a minute on the opening day after a seal failed on his car's hydraulic gearchange system. Märtin claimed two fastest times to take Ford's tally to nine for the rally, a figure not beaten by any other manufacturer.
The final leg concentrated on the more flowing roads of the Saarland region, after two days in the narrow vineyards above the Mosel river and on the rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military training area. Essentially dry roads were in marked contrast to the first two legs and made tyre selection relatively straightforward. Michelin's rubber matched the strong performance of the Focus RS throughout the rally, the French firm equal to the challenge posed by widely differing conditions and temperatures.
Duval, who was roared on throughout the rally by a large contingent from his fan club in Belgium, climbed into second late last night and started today just 5.7sec ahead of Carlos Sainz. However, Duval outpaced his former team-mate on every stage to increase the gap to 40.4sec. He was also 25.6sec quicker than Loeb through the final leg.
"This was my best ever drive," said Duval, who remains sixth in the drivers' standings. "I've really enjoyed the weekend because the weather and roads were so similar to rallies at home in Belgium. The conditions were very difficult but I've learned a lot and made big progress here. I pushed hard today and I really believe I could have won if it had not been for our time loss on Friday. The roads here are unlike anything else in the championship and we've had rain, fog, mud and even a little sunshine. It's been a tough challenge and second is a superb result for me and the team."
Märtin and Park had large time gaps both in front and behind them. With no possibility of moving up the leaderboard unless those ahead made a mistake, the 28-year-old Estonian driver adopted a cautious policy to consolidate fourth in his Castrol-branded Focus RS.
"Today was OK but the roads were tricky and our emphasis was on surviving," said Märtin. "Many corners were quite muddy and damp under the trees and I pushed just enough to keep ahead of Robert. There was no point in taking risks. It hasn't been a particularly enjoyable weekend because the conditions have been so hard and I'm just glad to see the finish. To move into second in the championship is good but the gap between ourselves and Sebastien has increased so that's less good."
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with his team's results. "François was fantastic. He and Stéphane were the fastest crew here this weekend and this was his best drive to date. He was the only driver to challenge Loeb and I believe his first win is not far away. Markko produced a solid drive to climb to second in the championship and it has been a great team effort. Both championships are not over yet and we'll continue our efforts in Japan next month," he said.
News from our Rivals
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his lead at the head of the championship to 29 points after a risk-free drive today. However, he could never afford to cruise with the hard-charging Duval closing in. Team-mate Carlos Sainz was unable to match's Duval's pace today but third promoted him to third in the championship. Cedric Robert (Peugeot) claimed fifth on his full debut for the French manufacturer ahead of team-mate Freddy Loix. The final drivers' points went to Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) and Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru), who moved ahead of ex-Formula 1 driver Stéphane Sarrazin. There were no major retirements today.
The championship heads to Japan in just two weeks for the first ever world rally there. The all-gravel Rally Japan is based in Obihiro, in the north of the country, on 2 - 5 September.