x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Wilson staying realistic on Ford's title chances

The BP-Ford Abu Dhabi car of Jari-Matti Latvala in action. The team boss Malcolm Wilson is looking to build on a good start to the season. STR / AFP
The BP-Ford Abu Dhabi car of Jari-Matti Latvala in action. The team boss Malcolm Wilson is looking to build on a good start to the season. STR / AFP

Team top both championship tables Drivers to receive special tarmac tips in bid to keep them ahead of the Citroen of Loeb Kumar Shyam Despite a strong first half to the World Rally Championship season the BP-Ford Abu Dhabi team are taking nothing for granted as they prepare for the second part of the year. After eight rallies the team is leading both the drivers' and constructors' championships, but know the job is only half done as they prepare for the ninth round in Finland this weekend.

The Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson confirms the onus is on being realistic in their expectations despite rattling up 99 points in the constructors race - nine more than nearest rivals Citroen. He said: "I don't want to be building hopes and there is still a fair distance to go. Having said that, we are in a far stronger position that the expectations we had set for ourselves." The retirement of team leader and former double world champion Marcus Gronholm at the end of last season was expected to hit Ford's chances of success this season, but their young drivers have done the team proud.

Mikko Hirvonen graduated to the lead driver status and was joined by Jari-Matti Latvala, and both have won rallies this season. But asked how he would feel if the team does not go on to win from here, Wilson said: "Considering that I have two new and young drivers, I would accept it (not winning the championship) from a driver point of view. "They have exceeded my expectations and to lead at the half-way stage is a bonus."

In the drivers' championship, Hirvonen is leading by three points from the Citroen of the four-times world champion Sebastian Loeb. But of the seven rallies remaining, four are on gravel and three are on tarmac. Wilson knows this is not the time to slip up and has arranged for special coaching sessions with tarmac specialist Rob Wilson for his drivers. He said: "It's been a long time since anybody has beaten Loeb on tarmac.

"So it is always good to take a step back and refresh your basics. With both his drivers on home ground at Rally Finland, which begins tomorrow, Wilson is backing Hirvonen to shine. He added: "There is no substitute for experience. Going by last year too, Mikko was doing well but was chasing Marcus (Gronholm). This year it would be Mikko with more experience over Latvala." @Email:kshyam@thenational.ae