Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson says he is confident that Mikko Hirvonen can bounce back from a tough 2010 to fight for the World Rally Championship crown next year.
The Finn took victory in the opening round of the year in Sweden but then failed to win again as he struggled to sixth in the championship standings. By contrast, team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala finished second to Sebastien Loeb despite being viewed as the second driver in the Ford line-up.
Hirvonen will go into 2011 hoping to return to the kind of form that saw him finish second in the standings by a single point in 2009 and team boss Wilson said he was confident that the 30-year-old could bounce back.
“He lost that fifth gear in the car somewhere and had a dreadful season by his standards,” Wilson told the official WRC website. “But, as we've always done as a team, we've got to give him the support to get back there.
“We know [his ability] is there and we'll work with him like we've worked with Jari-Matti and like we worked with our cars to get them competitive after Bulgaria.”
Hirvonen will be armed with the new Fiesta RS WRC next year, and Wilson said he felt sure that the enthusiasm shown by the Finn would be converted into results.
“He's really excited and looking forward to the future so that's a positive,” he said. “When you look at the year he's had it's certainly going to be a lot easier going into next year with a car that he's really excited about and end it the way this season has ended with some good performances.”