27 Jan 08
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson says he's pleased with the start his team has made to the 2008 season.
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen produced their best performance on the Rallye Monte Carlo to finish second, while Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished 12th in another Focus RS after a troubled rally.
"There was a lot of pressure on Mikko but he filled the slot left by Marcus Gronholm and I'm impressed with the job he did", said Wilson. "I couldn't have asked for more in terms of the result. It was a steep learning curve for Jari-Matti but he has drawn experience from the weekend and will feel the benefit later in the season."
"Second is a great result for me and a perfect start to the season," said 27-year-old Hirvonen. "I've never had a good rally here so to take a podium is fantastic and it almost feels as good as a win. I started the season how I wanted to with a good result. I didn't know what to expect from this rally but my plan for the year is to finish second if I can't win a rally. When I moved into second I eased off because I was under no pressure from behind."
Latvala lost time when he had to change a wheel on Thursday after clipping a wall and was forced to retire on Saturday after hitting a stone and breaking his car's front suspension. He restarted this morning in 14th and posted three top three times to climb to 12th.
"I made two mistakes and it was a long and difficult weekend, but I found good speed today and I was happy with my times," said 22-year-old Latvala. "It's unfortunate they came three days too late. I've learned much about cutting corners with the new tyres - I can't afford to do that if I want to finish rallies."
Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr took 16th in a third factory Ford. The pair restarted under SupeRally rules having retired earlier in the rally.