Fresh from his podium finish in Germany last time out, Francois Duval says he is focused on taking more points for the Stobart VK M-Sport team as he takes part in his first gravel event of the World Rally Championship season in New Zealand.
The Belgian ace wasn't due to compete down under before Gigi Galli suffered a broken leg in an accident on Rally Deutschland, with Duval quickly being brought in to replace the Italian.
Having not competed on the event since 2005, when he took his best finish of fourth, Duval admits that it may take time to get back into the grove, but he said he was hopeful of bringing home more points for the Ford 'B' team.
"I haven't competed in New Zealand for two years so it will be difficult going back there with some new stages and knowing most of the other competitors have the advantage of experience on the roads,” he said. “But I know that the Ford Focus is a fantastic car on gravel and that is a good feeling for me; I am confident that I will be able to a find a comfortable setting with it quite soon. It is also a benefit to have spent time in the car just last week.
“My plan for the rally is firstly to try and finish in the points and if the confidence is good then maybe I will be able to increase the speed."
Team-mate Matthew Wilson has been nominated to score manufacturer points on the event as he seeks to break into the top ten for the second successive year and he said it would be interesting to see how the Kiwi stages had held up to poor recent weather which has already led to Friday's stages being changed.
"This is probably my favourite event so I'm really looking forward to it and getting back on gravel after Germany,” he said. “We are also nominated to score points on what is one of my stronger events so hopefully we can help the Stobart team out in New Zealand. I like the nature of the stages and the camber of the corners plus the high speeds which give the event a Finland sort of feel. I have heard reports of quite bad weather recently in Hamilton so it will be interesting to see how the stages hold up once we are out there."