Francois Duval is aiming for a podium finish on the Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada this coming weekend, as he rejoins Ford's premier team for the first time since 2004.

Duval will be under extra pressure to perform in Spain as he has been nominated to score manufacturers' points in preference to regular number two driver, Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ford has slipped behind Citroen in the battle for the manufacturers' and now needs as many points as possible to close the 20-point deficit.

The M-Sport-run outfit has been busy recently and completed two asphalt tests in preparation for the coming back-to-back tarmac rounds in Spain and Corsica.

Ford's three-day test in Corsica ended on Monday last week, with Duval and team-mate Mikko Hirvonen each spending one-and-a-half days behind the wheel to concentrate on tyre work and car set-up. Duval, who tested first, covered more than 300 kilometres.

This was followed by another three-day test which ended in Spain on Friday. Duval again took the wheel first, with Mikko taking over for the final day-and-a-half.

Speaking ahead of the twelfth round in the series, Francois added that ideally he would like it to be dry as he doesn't have much experience of the 08 Focus in the wet.

"This isn't my favourite asphalt rally because the roads are fast and wide. I prefer stages that are narrow and tight," said the Belgian, who took his best result in Spain in 2005 when he was second. "But that doesn't alter my plan which is to try to take a podium.

"I would prefer dry conditions because I don't have any real experience of the 2008 car with Pirelli tyres in the wet. I was hoping for some rain in Spain during the test. The first couple of hours on the opening day were, damp which helped, but I still haven't driven the car in heavy rain.

"The 2008-specification Focus RS WRC is a big improvement though over the 2007 version which I drove on asphalt earlier in the season, and if I can match the pace of [Citroen number two] Dani Sordo then I should be around the top three."

Khalid Al Qassimi meanwhile will drive the 'third' BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT car - the eighth time he has done so this season. It will be only the second time however he has done the Rally de Espana, having finished 14th on his debut last year.

"I'm going to devise completely new pace notes because I'm now a year in to my WRC career and I feel I can push a little harder on asphalt. My new notes will be more accurate and allow me to go for more pace," said the 36-year-old. "This will be my sixth asphalt event in just over a year but I'm still learning.

"Before I was just happy to be driving and competing, now I'm trying to get more pace out of the car. I will focus on setting-up the car and then review my first day performance. If I feel I'm heading in the right direction, then I will start lifting my pace a bit."



Loading Comments...