Ford Focus RS driver François Duval achieced a career best result when he and co-driver Stéphane Prévot finished third in the Rally of Turkey.

Ford Focus RS driver François Duval achieced a career best result when he and co-driver Stéphane Prévot finished third in the Rally of Turkey.

Twenty-two-year-old Duval became the

youngest driver to claim a podium position in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship and the result was all the more remarkable as this was

the first occasion on which the two Belgians have competed together.

Team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park added to Ford's joy by finishing sixth in another Focus RS and ensuring a double points haul for the team.

The 27-year-old Estonian now lies fourth in the world championship with Ford maintaining third in the manufacturers' standings.

An extremely wet winter ensured the gravel tracks on this third round of the 14-event championship were so rough that just 27 of the 60 starters completed the four days of competition, covering 337.88km in the mountains of southern Turkey.

Conditions were so bad that organisers twice had to

make major revisions to the scheduled route in the last week and the seemingly constant rainfall in the past few months required them to repair some sections of road up to six times before the start.

Ford Rallye Sport's points haul on such a tough event enhanced the reputation of the Focus as a strong and dependable car which thrives in rugged conditions.

It was the car's 17th consecutive finish in the points and a fitting end to the career of the 2002 Focus RS WRC which will be replaced by the 2003 model on round four in New Zealand next month.

"Team director Malcolm Wilson told me this morning (Sunday) to continue driving as I have been all rally and that's what I did," said Duval. "I drove to avoid

the rocks and the Focus has again been perfect today. I felt very relaxed until the final two stages when I became quite nervous. It helped when Carlos, who was my team-mate last year, came up to me before the final stage and told me to keep calm and take no risks.

"He's been under pressure so many times in his career that there's nobody better to receive advice from.

"Before the start my aim was to finish but it was just as important to build a good relationship with Stéphane on our first rally. We worked well together and I'm as pleased about that as I am about the result," added Duval, who climbed to eighth in the drivers' standings.

Märtin recovered superbly after a broken shaft in the gearbox cost 3min 30sec early on the opening day. Despite a poor road position for the entire

rally, which left his Focus RS running close to the head of the field and inadvertently sweeping the loose gravel clear for the benefit of those behind, he set two fastest stage times after charging back up the

leaderboard from 12th position.

"We made no mistakes and proved ourselves to be very competitive here even with a bad road position, but we lost too much time on the first leg to have

a better result. I think we've done a good job.

"We've driven carefully and kept out of trouble and I'm happy to be fourth in the championship. I would

give us nine out of 10! I've enjoyed a really good 16 rallies with this Focus and I'm now hoping that the 2003 car will be faster and just as reliable. The signs are good."

Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the outcome of the rally.

"It's a dream result for François especially after

his difficulties in the last few months. Stéphane was a big influence on this result but François knows that his work is only just starting now.

"He now has to live up to this performance. I'm disappointed for Markko because so many people thought he was capable of winning here and his stage times proved that was the case," he added.

Original article from Car