WRC championship leader Richard Burns says Markko Martin is the favourite to win the Cyprus Rally this weekend, but the Estonian’s Ford team-mate Francois Duval might be the one to watch.

WRC championship leader Richard Burns says Acropolis Rally winner Markko Martin is the favourite to win the Cyprus Rally this weekend, but the Estonian’s Ford team-mate Francois Duval might be the one to watch.

“It’s been fairly clear over the last two rallies that Ford had the pace to win,” Peugeot 206 WRC driver Burns said on Tuesday. “Markko Martin led the Acropolis convincingly last year and it could be a similar story in Cyprus this weekend.

“I’ll have the usual problems of running first so don’t expect me to have a brilliant first day in Cyprus,” he continued. “Last year I finished the opening day down in ninth but was up to second at the end.

“We can fight our way up the order and having finished every rally this season; the reliability of our Peugeot is certainly one of our strengths over our competitors,” Burns added.

Martin may have victory in the last rally to his credit, but Ford Rallye Sport team boss Malcolm Wilson recently gave Duval permission to drive at the limit right from the start of the Cyprus Rally.

The Belgian led the Acropolis Rally after the first stage, but crashed only a few stages later. However, Wilson did not criticise the 22-year-old for the accident, saying it was “part of his young driver’s learning curve”.

“This wasn’t an accident where he cooked it too far, this was concentrating on correcting the note rather than listening to the notes he was being given,” said Wilson. “He thought the note he had been give was too slow so he was telling Stephane (Prevot, his co-driver) to correct it for the second run. Doing two things at once knocked his mind but I class this as a lesson learned.

“On some rallies where Francois doesn’t have much experience we have asked him to drive with caution and make sure he finishes,” Wilson added. “There are some events where he knows the roads quite well and that gives us and him the opportunity to attack from the start.

Duval hurt his neck during the accident in Greece and has been receiving physio to relieve the pain. The Belgian led last year’s Cyprus Rally for a short time, but has yet to reach the finish of the twisty rough gravel event. His main objective this time round is to make it to the finish ramp and he believes his road position on Day One should help him.

"Although I've started twice, I've retired quite early on both occasions so my knowledge of the roads isn't that good," said Duval. “Road position plays a vital part on the first day because the early starters often have to put up with a lot of loose gravel on the surface. We'll start ninth and that should be a good place because most of the gravel should have been swept away by then."

Original article from Car