Ford has admitted that it will be using team orders to put Mikko Hirvonen ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala at the end of the Rallye de France Alsace and ensure a battle to the finish in this year's World Rally Championship.
With seven-time World Champion Sebastien Loeb retiring as a result of engine problems on day one of the event, Hirvonen has his best chance yet of winning an inaugural world title. At the moment, Hirvonen will score 10 championship points for finishing fifth. But if he switches positions with fourth-placed Latvala and also goes fastest on the power stage tomorrow to score an extra three points, then he will draw level with Loeb in the championship standings.
Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said: "With Jari-Matti not having a chance to challenge for the championship it makes sense for us to give Mikko the opportunity to win the title. It certainly looks like it's going to be an exciting finish to the season."
The Ford drivers were helped by an accident for Mini driver Kris Meeke, who crashed out of fifth place on SS13. His Mini skated off on some loose gravel and hit a tree stump, picking up enough damage to ensure that Meeke and co-driver Paul Nagle will not be able to restart the final day under the superally regulations.
With just one more stage left to go on the second day of the Rallye de France, Citroen driver Sebastien Ogier is extending his overall lead from Mini's Dani Sordo. Citroen privateer Petter Solberg dropped back from the lead battle following a puncture on SS11.