Francois Duval is 'hoping' to be able to push for a podium finish on the Rally Japan - although he concedes that it won't be easy to break into the top three and get onto the rostrum.

The Belgian, who has taken two podiums already this year, is effectively subbing for the injured Gigi Galli this weekend, re-joining the Stobart fold after running under the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT banner in Spain and Corsica.

The 27-year-old has had mixed fortunes on his two attempts at Rally Japan, last contesting the event in 2005 when he finished fourth overall.

However, the fact he missed the event in 2006 and 2007 shouldn't be too big a handicap as this year the event has moved to an all-new arena in the city of Sapporo - the capital of the north island, Hokkaido.

Furthermore while most of his experience this season in the WRC has been on asphalt, his run on the Rally New Zealand back in August should prove useful and help him run nearer the front.

"It is not going to be easy for me to go fast from the start in Japan because the last time I was here was three years ago but OK this year the rally is in a new location which means new roads, and pace-notes, for everybody," he said prior to the penultimate round in the World Rally Championship.

"It took some time for me to find a good setup with the Focus in New Zealand but now I have the gravel kilometres on board from that event we can hopefully transfer the knowledge into speed this week in Japan.

"There are some big fights for the top places in the championship right now so these guys will be hard to match.

"But hopefully by the end of the rally I will be pushing for a podium like on the last two events in Spain and Corsica."

Ford boss Malcolm Wilson meanwhile is confident Duval can get the job done and build on what he achieved on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse. Ideally he will be hoping the Belgian can get his Focus RS WRC07 in a position to take points off Citroen too and aid the 'Blue Oval' in its battle with the French manufacturer.

"Francois has done a fantastic job for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team over the last two events," Malcolm added, "and he will now rejoin the Stobart team off the back of a fine podium finish in Corsica."

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