Loriaux encouraged by Fiesta form
"We were well up on the speed"
Ford’s technical boss Christian Loriaux says he was encouraged by the performance of the factory Fiesta RS WRCs on Vodafone Rally de Portugal but admits there is work still to do.
Jari-Matti Latvala led home team-mate Mikko Hirvonen in third overall, a result that ensures the Blue Oval continues to lead the manufacturers’ standings after three events. Hirvonen still tops the drivers’ table but is now equal on points with seven-time champion Sebastien Loeb.
However, Ford managed only three gravel stage wins compared to the 13 claimed by rival Citroen, while both Latvala and Hirvonen were slowed by mechanical failures.
“I’m really happy with the performance to be honest,” said Loriaux. “We were keeping up well with the bloke [Loeb] who has been seven-time world champion and we were cleaning the road for two days. Okay, we didn’t win because we had punctures and technical problems but we were well up on the speed. We can always be better but the performance for sure was very encouraging and it’s difficult to say which car is stronger.”
Of the technical problems that struck the Fiestas during the demanding gravel event, Loriaux explained: “When you run nine cars and not so many have had problems it’s not bad. Jari-Matti’s driveshaft failure is certainly a problem we have to solve but the problem Mikko had this morning is easy to fix. It was frustrating but every new car has a few little skeletons in the cupboard and we have to be careful.”
Loriaux rebuked suggestions that Ford’s failure to dominate the event-closing Power Stage - which carried additional bonus points and was won by Loeb’s DS3 WRC - was a measure of Citroen’s pace.
“Some people think we should have won the Power Stage easily because Citroen were backing off to protect their first and second but I think it was as important to us to protect our third and fourth as it was for them to protect their first and second,” said Loriaux. “At the end of the day Jari-Matti couldn’t afford to go off, Mikko couldn’t afford to go off, Ogier couldn’t afford to go off and Loeb either. Jari finished a 31-kilometre stage 1.7s off Sebastien and Mikko won the [Lisbon] superspecial stage on Tarmac, which is pretty much unheard of.”
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