Francois Duval is one of two Belgian rally drivers who scored victories in the World Rally Championship (the other one is Thierry Neuville). Duval was active in the WRC between 2001 and 2010, recording 83 starts and reaching 14 podiums. He scored his only WRC victory at 2005 Rally Australia, driving the Citroen Xsara WRC. In recent years, he mostly participated in historic rally events but also entered few rallycross events in the European and World championship.
Belgian sprint-rally champion as a teenager
François Duval was born on November 18, 1980. He started his racing career driving go-karts but he soon switched to rally cars. He had to wait until the age of 18 to compete in the rally events, so he participated in the rally-sprint events on the closed courses. At the age of 14, he was the Belgian rally-sprint champion, driving Toyota Corolla.
1999 Belgian Citroen Saxo Challenge winner
Immediately after his 18th birthday, François entered his first rally competition – the Belgian Citroen Saxo Challenge. He scored four wins and became the 1999 champion. Besides Citroen Saxo VTS, at some events, he was driving Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD. It was his main car during the 2000 season, in which he competed mostly in Belgium, finishing third in the national championship. His other cars were three different Mitsubishis - Lancer Evo V, Lancer Evo VI and Carisma GT Evo VI.
Seventh place in the 2001 Junior WRC
In 2001, it was a time for the international competition. Duval entered the Junior WRC competition, driving Ford Puma S1600. Out of six JWRC events, Duval retired five times, reaching the finish line only at Rally Sanremo, where he was second in the JWRC classification. He finished seventh in the points. The Junior world rally champion was Sebastien Loeb.
Ford Puma S1600 was Duval's victorious car at Rally of Kent in the UK, which was a part of the British Formula Rally series. Besides driving Ford Puma, Duval participated in three more WRC events with his own Mitsubishi Carisma GT, retiring two times (Portugal, Cyprus) and finishing 19th in Australia.
Best junior at 2002 Rallye Monte-Carlo
Duval spent one more season in the Junior WRC competition, winning the season-opening 2002 Rallye Monte-Carlo. Later in the season, he missed podiums and wins and he finished sixth in the points. Duval got an opportunity to drive M-Sport's Ford Focus WRC for the first time at Swedish Rally. He finished in tenth place. Duval returned to the cockpit of Ford Focus WRC four more times during 2002 but retired in all four events (France, Cyprus, Finland and Australia).
In 2003, Duval joined Ford's factory team
For the 2003 season, Duval was promoted to Ford's factory team, alongside Markko Martin and Mikko Hirvonen. He became a regular point-scorer, finishing in the Top 8 at eight out of fourteen rallies. His navigator was Stephane Prevot.
Duval scored his first WRC podium at Rally of Turkey, finishing third behind Carlos Sainz and Richard Burns. He added one more third-place finish at Tour de Corse, ending the season in ninth place. Markko Martin and Francois Duval remained Ford's pair in 2004. The Belgian improved his performances, scoring five podiums.
Five podium results in the 2004 WRC season
He was third in the season-opening Rally Monte-Carlo and then finished second in Mexico, losing the victory from his teammate Martin. The next podium was third place at Rally Argentina. Duval nearly missed the victory again in Germany, finishing second behind Sebastien Loeb. His final podium in 2004 was the third place at Rally Australia. Duval collected 53 points and finished sixth in the final classification.
2005 - season of ups and downs
For the 2005 WRC season, Duval moved to the Citroen Total World Rally Team, to drive the #2 Citroen Xsara WRC alongside reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb. His performances were beyond the expectations in first six events, so he was replaced by Carlos Sainz in Turkey and Greece. After returning to the cockpit, with Sven Smeets as a new co-driver, Duval started to collect podiums. He finished in second-place three times (Germany, GB and Spain).
Duval scored his only WRC win at 2005 Rally Australia
And then, in November 2005, in the last round of the championship, Duval finally scored his maiden WRC victory. He won at Rally Australia with almost one-minute-advantage over Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera. That victory helped Duval to finish sixth in the points. Loeb was a champion again.
One season with Škoda Fabia WRC
Since Citroen took a one-year formal sabbatical from the World Rally Championship in 2006, Duval lost his seat and didn't make a new deal with any other manufacturer. He was driving Škoda Fabia WRC in eight events for the private team First Motorsport, reaching points in three events. His best result was the sixth place at Rally Catalunya.
Driving for Kronos Racing in 2007
The lack of funds forced him to miss most of the 2007 WRC season, driving First Motorsport's Škoda only at Acropolis Rally. For the second part of the season, he made a deal with Kronos Racing to drive old Citroen Xsara WRC in three events (Germany, Spain and France). At 2007 ADAC Rallye Deutschland, Duval finished in the sensational second place, behind Sebastien Loeb in the new Citroen C4 WRC. Duval was also good at Rally Catalunya, finishing fifth. At the end of the season, he was tenth in the points.
Duval spent his last WRC season with Ford
For the beginning of the 2008 WRC season, Duval had a new deal. He participated at Rallye Monte-Carlo with #8 Ford Focus RS WRC 07 for Stobart VK World Rally Team. He finished fourth, missing the podium by only 1.1 seconds.
He returned to Stobart Ford in August, at 2008 ADAC Rallye Deutschland, to beat Ford factory driver Mikko Hirvonen in the battle for the third place. After Stobart's Gigi Galli was injured in a crash at the event, Duval was signed by Ford as Galli's replacement for three gravel events while in the tarmac events he was promoted to the factory team (BP Ford Abu Dhabi). At 2008 Tour de Corse, Duval finished third with #4 Ford Focus RS WRC 08 and it was his last WRC podium in a career.
At the penultimate round of the championship, in Japan, Duval crashed during the first day and his co-driver Patrick Pivato was seriously injured. For the last round, the Wales Rally GB, Denis Giraudet was sitting next to Duval.
One-off return to WRC at 2010 ADAC Rallye Deutschland
Although he was only 28 years old, Duval retired from professional rallying at the end of 2008 season. During 2009, he participated in few Belgian events with different cars. He won Rallye de Wallonie with Toyota Corolla WRC. In August 2010, he returned one more time to the WRC, participating at ADAC Rallye Deutschland with Stobart's Ford Focus RS WRC 08, with Denis Giraudet as a co-driver. They retired after an accident at SS14 Arena Panzerplatte 2.
Since 2010, the focus in on rallycross
Since 2010, Duval participated mostly at historic events, visiting Legend Boucles de Spa regularly. In 2009, Duval participated for the first time in rallycross, taking part in the Belgian round of the European Rallycross Championship at Mettet. In 2010, he participated in two events, at Lydden Hill and Mettet, surprisingly winning the Belgian round with Ford Focus.
In the next couple of years, he was a regular guest in the Belgian ERX round, driving Peugeot 207 (in 2011 and 2012), Volkswagen Polo (in 2014) and Ford Focus (2015). In 2014, the inaugural season of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, he appeared at the Belgian round with Volkswagen Polo. In 2015, he was driving Ecurie Bayard's Peugeot 208 WRX at the French round and then, in 2016, he returned to Mettet with Ford Fiesta.