Thierry Neuville was full of praise for M-Sport's new Ford Fiesta R5 after piloting the car on the Geko Ypres Rally last weekend, the latest round in the FIA European Rally Championship.

Running at the head of the field as a 'VIP' car and partnered by regular co-driver and fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul, Neuville was charged with giving the new R5 model its public debut and he did well, taking what would have been 16 fastest times from a possible 19 stages.

Despite a couple of 'offs' and having caught the zero car on occasion, Neuville and the Fiesta R5 were in a class of their own. Indeed were it not for a puncture on SS14, which lost the youngster some three minutes, his time would have been good enough to secure the rally win by an dominant two minute advantage.

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"The car is really impressive," Neuville commented. "In terms of chassis and brakes, you can compare it to a WRC car although the engine is, of course, not the same and you have only five gears.

"It is a really driveable car and good fun too! For regional championships like the ERC, it is perfect - less expensive than a Super 2000 or Regional Rally Car, but still very competitive.

"You can also adapt really quickly to this car and it's easy to set quick times because you have the benefit of a good set-up and therefore more confidence straight away.

"It's a great car for a driver who wants to prove their speed and I think the FIA have done a great job with the regulations of this new class."

The new Fiesta R5 is based on the new 1.6-litre EcoBoost-engined Ford Fiesta ST road car and it forms the latest step on Ford and M-Sport's 'Ladder of Opportunity'. Thus far more than 20 deposits have already been made by customers.