“We’re nowhere near where we wanted to be, certainly from the manufacturers’ [championship] point of view,” is Wilson’s brutal but honest assessment following the first seven rounds of the year.
He’s got a point. While Mikko Hirvonen remains in contention for the drivers’ crown, 17 points behind Sebastien Loeb with six rounds to go, Ford’s gap from Citroen increased to a rather sizable 55 points following last month’s Acropolis Rally, where Citroen landed a one-two finish. As Wilson freely admits, the Blue Oval is “going to have to have a lot better second half of the season from the first half”.
Rally Sweden winner Hirvonen and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala have won stages and led rallies on countless occasions this year but it’s Citroen that has been doing the winning on the last six rounds.
Asked to explain Ford’s victory drought since Sweden, Wilson says: “It’s such a small margin and everything has got to be 100 per cent. We’ve got the pace but we’ve had some small technical issues. There’s been the odd little thing with the drivers, small mistakes. It just goes to show that the technical regulations are absolutely perfect because we’re getting such close competition, the sport has never been so exciting on the final day.”
Those technical issues have been particularly apparent for Latvala. Driveshaft failure wrecked his chances in Portugal. Broken suspension ended his hopes in Argentina, while a transmission fault and a turbocharger glitch held him back in Greece. However, a puncture cost him valuable time in Mexico and a rare pace note error caused his opening day crash in Italy. In Jordan he missed out on victory by 0.2s.
“It would be totally different if you weren’t competitive, that’s when it’s really difficult as a driver,” says Wilson. “But we’ve posted a similar amount of fastest times to the two Sebastiens. When you know you’ve got the performance in the car and the drivers can do the fastest times then that’s really what motivates the driver and the team to give that support to what we need to do to win. I’m very confident that we’ll be standing on the top step of the podium, maybe not in all the events in the second half of the season but we’ll certainly be on the top step.”
Latvala’s setbacks means he has all but given up on landing his first world crown this season and has, instead, pledged to do all he can to help Hirvonen’s bid against the factory Citroens of Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier. Although Hirvonen can point to a couple of costly punctures during the season, he has struggled to sparkle of late and admitted to being out of sorts in Argentina and Greece.
"We’ve got the pace but we’ve had some small technical issues"