Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson is confident Francois Duval could mark his return to the World Rally Championship with a podium result at this week's Rally Germany.
The Stobart Ford driver insists he would be happy with a top-five finish on his first WRC round since Rally GB in 2008, but Wilson feels he could maintain an already strong Germany finishing record which has delivered three podiums in the last four years.
Duval continued to impress at this morning's shakedown stage, posting a time faster than official Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala and ending the session just a tenth slower than Mikko Hirvonen. Duval has already said he doesn't expect to beat either of the factory Ford men over the three days.
"I think Francois could still get on the podium," said Wilson. "I think it'll be difficult for him to beat Mikko or Jari. We see this, when drivers come back from a long layoff, it's always difficult for them to beat the full-time drivers who are in the car regularly. But, if everything is going as well as possible – as it has in the test – then it's possible he could get in the top three."
In the pre-event press conference, Duval reiterated his hopes of remaining in the Stobart squad for the final two asphalt rallies of the season, the Rally of France and Catalunya Rally, but Wilson said there was no decision on who would partner Matthew Wilson later this year.
"We haven't discussed that yet," he said. "I will discuss it, I'm sure, but I haven't as yet."