Duval quickest in German shakedown
By David Evans Thursday, August 14th 2008, 12:24 GMT
Francois Duval celebrated his return to the World Rally Championship with fastest time on this morning's shakedown for Rallye Deutschland.
Duval, who is driving for the Stobart Ford outfit in Germany, was more than a second faster than six-time event winner Sebastien Loeb on the 5.8km shakedown stage near the event's base in Trier.
But the Belgian played down his chances of winning his first event since the Monte Carlo Rally in January.
"It's nice to be back, but don't forget I have been at home for seven months," he said. "To get in the car and be right up to speed is going to be really difficult. The car is good and the set-up I have is very nice. I'm really happy with the car, but it's not going to be an easy event."
Duval tested the 2007-specification Ford last week, but is concerned at his lack of wet-weather running in the Focus.
"It's Germany, it's going to rain tomorrow morning, you know that," he said. "I don't know so much about what the car will do in the rain - that's going to be completely new for me.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of mud in every corner when the rain's coming, so running further back on the road, where I am, it's going to be harder than being at the front."
Loeb's teammate Dani Sordo was second fastest in the shakedown, six tenths down on Duval's 3m35.5s benchmark. Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen was third, posting a 3m36.3s on his fifth and final run in the latest-specification 2008 Focus.
"It's nice to have the new car," said Hirvonen. "But it's not a massive change from the last one, just some things in the engine."
Having lost his home round of the WRC (Finland) to Loeb 10 days ago, the championship leader is desperate for revenge in Germany.
"He's won every one of these rallies," said Hirvonen. "That's got to end some time. Why not this time?"