Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson says the team is ready to take a tactical approach to this evening's selection of running order for Rally Sweden.
Wilson's driver Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time on the 2.4-mile qualifying stage and will now select his position on the road first of all the priority drivers at this evening's ceremonial start. There are concerns that some of Ford and Citroen's customer cars could be slotted in ahead of the main protagonists.
The significant competitive action starts with the event's longest stage – the 17-mile Mitandersfors test – on Friday morning. It's possible Latvala and the other leading drivers could make up the two-minute gap between them and some tactically placed customer cars.
"If that starts to happen," said Wilson, "we'll have to respond. We're here to win the rally - it's that simple. There's a lot to think about. We have a meeting at five o'clock to consider our options."
Ironically, the qualifying stage was introduced to try and alleviate the tactical approach being taken, with crews slowing down on the stages to drop time and jockey for a position further down the order on the following day. Wilson admitted the Ford works team had already considered all the potential ramifications of running at the front, in the middle or at the rear of the car.
"We've got it under controI," said Wilson. "I think this will be quite an isolated incident. On the next round in Mexico, it's quite simple what will be – you'll just run as far back on the road as you can. The only thing I think we know here is that Mikko [Hirvonen] will drop in immediately behind Jari tonight.
"I do believe, however, that a lead can be built and maintained from where we are. We'll just have to see what tomorrow morning and the weather brings, it's certainly pretty exciting though!"
The qualifying stage will be included in the route on all loose-surface rallies this season. After selecting their own position ahead of tonight's superspecial in Karlstad, the priority drivers will then run in reverse order through Saturday and Sunday.
The weather conditions are cold and dry in Sweden, with good ice on the roads but not especially good snow banks. For tomorrow's opening day, the rally moves across the border into Norway, where there is deeper snow and more snow banks on the stages around the town of Kongsvinger.