Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson has praised his driver Petter Solberg's efforts in delivering a Monte Carlo Rally podium on the Norwegian's debut in a Fiesta RS WRC.
Solberg returned to Ford during the closed season, coming back for the first time since he left for Subaru almost 12 years ago. Wilson said Solberg's performance and world champion pedigree shone through, despite limited testing ahead of the opening World Rally Championship round of the season.
Solberg battled with Mini's Dani Sordo for second, but settled for third after taking the wrong tires for the Friday morning loop of stages.
Wilson said: "I'm really pleased with Petter. It's interesting to me, we've been working with the two young Finns for the last two years, so to have somebody with Petter's experience is really good. There's no question it definitely helps having a World Rally Champion in the team.
"This was his first event with us and he made one mistake, or had one moment should I say, when he was on the wrong tires on Friday. But after that, look at what he did, he said to himself: "OK, I need the podium and I'm not going to risk it."
Solberg was fastest on four of the 18 stages on the Monte Carlo Rally, dominating the run though the Alpes Maritimes with quickest time on three from four of the dry stages on Saturday.
"Petter put his experience to very good use," added Wilson. "He showed a very mature approach and I really think he was quite nervous before the start, he didn't want to mess of his first rally.
Wilson added that Ford team leader Jari-Matti Latvala's early exit put more pressure on Solberg to bring his Fiesta home for some manufacturer points.
"It was made worse for him early on with Jari, but he's come in and fitted into the team very, very well – and I'm also very impressed with the way he's gone about his job," Wilson said. "Considering he's had a lot, lot less time than Mikko [Hirvonen] had in the red car. Genuinely, Petter's had two days in the car and the pace he showed on the back of that has been fantastic. It looks good for this year.