Bryan Bouffier's unexpected podium finish has exceeded his expectations after finishing a strong second in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Bouffier pulled off a French quinella in the opening leg of the World Rally Championship after finishing just under 1:20s behind countryman Sebastien Ogier.
After setting the pace at the front of the rally before Ogier's stunning comeback, Bouffier recorded his first WRC podium in his first outing in a hired M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS.
Bouffier remains part of the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team as a test driver and gave the German based WRC newcomers some solace after both its i20s for Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo were eliminated early on the first day.
His Monte run was his only planned WRC event in 2014.
“I have to say that before the start of the rally, it was my dream to finish on the podium,” Bouffier said.
“To have actually achieved it is a fantastic feeling and truly surpassed my expectations.
“It was a pleasure to battle for the lead.
“On some stages were really pushed and it was great to see that our pace was strong enough to challenge.”
M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson praised Bouffier's effort in a rally which dished up huge adversity across its 15 stages.
“To finish in second place at Monte – on his first time with the Fiesta [RS WRC] – shows that he has real potential and I hope that we can find a way to get him back behind the wheel as the season continues.”
Bouffier starred in a rally where weather conditions worsened on the final day with heavy snow across Turini and many other parts of the final loop hampered with rivers on running water and slush that caused some drivers to suggest the conditions were the most challenging they had seen.