It was good to have a couple of 'proper' stages on Thursday afternoon, but to have just 16km on the final day was a bit of a shame. Okay, it might have been interesting if there had been a really exciting fight for victory or for the podium still going on, but as it was, there were very few battles left by that point which meant it was a bit of a meaningless day for all concerned.
Of course, in the countdown to the event came the shock news that Ford will withdraw from the World Rally Championship at the end of this season, bringing an end to its works programme. This is very sad. Ford has been probably the WRC's greatest supporter and is one of the most successful manufacturers in the championship's history, but I can understand the reasons behind the decision.
M-Sport will, however, fight on, so it isn't all doom and gloom. Indeed, I can see absolutely no reason either why they won't still be able to really take the fight to Citroen and Volkswagen in 2013. The bottom line is that the Fiesta RS WRC is a bloody quick car, and I am confident it can be even quicker next year and there will still be technical support from Ford in 2013, don't forget. M-Sport can definitely fight for the championship next year – there is no doubt about that in my mind.
Returning to 2012, though, we still have one event left and that is of course in Spain. Rally de España is another excellent event and like Sardinia has a fantastic atmosphere. It is a mixed-surface event these days – some people still forget that and assume all the stages are on asphalt, but the opening day isn't. The first leg is probably the most demanding as it features two different stages on gravel and Terra Alta – the mixed-surface stage, which is over 40 kilometres long (all three are run twice). Driving on asphalt and gravel obviously requires two completely different approaches and it will be interesting to see who can adapt the best to that unique challenge.
We will have a test next week as we gear up for the WRC season finale, and the principal objective will be to establish a solid set-up for the mixed-surface first day of the rally. It will be important to get that right as we have to go for the victory. For Ford, for M-Sport, for Malcolm and for all the engineers, mechanics and everybody else in the team, we want to be standing on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon. Of course, I personally want to be the driver to do that, and I really want to win to make up for Italy, but whether it is me or Jari-Matti, the most important thing is that a Ford finishes first. We will put everything into that goal.
Until next time,
To keep tabs on the Ford World Rally Team's progress, simply follow this link: www.wrcford.com