Ford of Europe motorsport director Gerard Quinn has bitterly disputed Citroen's explanation of the problem which left Sebastien Ogier running first on the road in the Jordan Rally this morning.
Citroen claims Ogier's late departure from service this morning was brought about by an electrical problem. With the Frenchman's second place already compromised by this issue, Citroen Junior Team manager Benoit Nogier admitted they elected to check him into morning's first stage early to run him first on the road and improve conditions for rally-leading works Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb.
Responding to that, Ford's Mikko Hirvonen then checked in six minutes early to run ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala in an effort to further clean the road for his Finnish team-mate, who was chasing Loeb for the rally win.
Disappointed in the morning's proceedings, Quinn said: "Ford wants to win this rally, that's very important to us, of course it is, but not at any cost. Our integrity is equally important to us.
"My concern on the back of this is that this could frighten off potential manufacturers coming to the sport. It would be good to find a way around this before it becomes damaging for the sport. But, as I said, we're not prepared to compromise our integrity or to damage the sport. I'm very firm on this."
Nogier defended Citroen's actions.
"We had an electrical problem with Sebastien's car, we changed the centre console and the ECU," he said. "It took five minutes to find this problem and to fix it.
"When we saw what Ford wanted to do with Hirvonen [when he left service late], the other team [Citroen Total World Rally Team] asked us to do exactly the same with Sebastien - that's why he checked in eight minutes early."
Asked why Hirvonen was late leaving service, a Ford spokesman said: "We made a tactical decision, simple as that. When we saw that, for whatever reason, Ogier was late leaving service we decided to put Mikko in front of Jari-Matti to try and clean the road more."