From Ben Mulkern [ 27/10/2001 ].
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Ford has signed rising young Belgian star François Duval (pictured right) to drive in a total of 11 rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship next season. The 20-year-old will tackle all six rounds of the FIA Super 1600 category, widely regarded as the junior world championship, in a Ford Puma 1600 and five more rounds of the full series in a four-wheel drive Focus RS World Rally Car. Duval has impressed many this season with his performances at the wheel of a Puma in the Super 1600 Championship as well as selected rallies in Belgium and Britain’s Formula Rally series. Earlier this month he claimed his maiden success for Ford by winning the Rally of Kent in Britain.
Duval’s programme means he will tackle the Monte Carlo, Catalunya, Acropolis, Deutschland, Sanremo and Great Britain rallies in a 200bhp, front-wheel drive Puma. His 300bhp Focus programme is currently being finalised. He will also complete the recce, but not start the rallies themselves, on the other remaining world championship rounds to increase his experience.
Martin Whitaker, European director of Ford Racing, who completed Duval’s signing in Corsica earlier this week, said he had been impressed by the Belgian’s performances in his debut season at world level.
"We believe François has the ability to reach the very top level of the sport. Already he has shown his speed in the Super 1600 Championship and Ford has beaten off stiff opposition to secure his signature for 2002. At Ford we believe in giving youngsters with potential the chance to fulfil that promise and we will continue to invest in talented young drivers through our Ladder of Opportunity scheme".
"We hope François will continue to develop in the Super 1600 Championship while also taking the opportunity, under no pressure to produce results, to widen his abilities at the wheel of a World Rally Car. He will also spend time at the Dovenby Hall base of M-Sport, the company which operates Ford’s world championship team, where he will both build and test the Focus WRC in order to gain further mechanical knowledge of the car," added Whitaker.
Duval said: "I’m so happy to have been given this opportunity. This contract offers me everything I could have asked for and will give me maximum experience. I’m looking forward to making big progress, both on a personal level and with the team. I haven’t yet driven the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car but I’ve heard it’s magnificent and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel."