Citroen team principal Olivier Quesnel has admitted the French firm could pull out of the World Rally Championship following Ford's deployment of tactics to place their lead driver Mikko Hirvonen in prime position for today's second leg of the Rally of Turkey.
Going into the final stage yesterday, Hirvonen led the event, but by the time he emerged he was in fifth position with Sebastien Loeb's Citroen and three other Fords ahead of him. The gap between leader Loeb and Hirvonen was just 6.9 seconds.
While many in the service park applauded Ford's tactical approach to give Hirvonen the cleanest possible conditions on the road, Quesnel was outraged.
"We have won five rallies from seven starts without having to resort to this," fumed the Frenchman on Friday night. "I'm not stupid. I know what's going on. I think this is bad for the [Ford] team.
"If this is a show, I don't care, but it's not - it's a sport. It's not a good advert for Ford. The good thing is that it shows that they [Ford] haven't got a car which is fast enough to beat the C4 on the stages."
Citroen's contract with current lead driver Loeb runs out at the end of next season, but the Versailles-based firm is in the middle of considering its future plans at the moment - with a switch to DTM already talked about for 2010. Quesnel said Citroen could be out of rallying at the end of this season.
"What's the point for us?" he said. "We don't have as many cars as Ford. What can we do? If there are no Citroens in the rally then they [Ford] will be happy. Then they can go and win all of the time - but what's the use of winning against yourself?
"Maybe we should go. How can I go to my boss and ask him to sign the cheque when this is happening?"
Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson defended his team's position, pointing out that they had acted entirely within the rules.
"The return of the regulation stating that the cars would run in position order on days two and three was implemented to bring back just these kind of tactics," said Wilson.
"I wasn't in favour of it when it was bought back and I have to say I'm neither for nor against it now. But the regulations are quite clear. This is just another part of the sport and I'm sorry, but they [Citroen] would do exactly the same in this position."
Loeb agreed with Wilson, but added that he didn't feel it was what the sport needed.
"This sport is supposed to be about who drives the fastest on the stages," said the four-times world champion. "It's a good tactic for Ford, but I'm not sure it's so nice for WRC."
The chief beneficiary of Ford's tactics, Hirvonen concluded ruefully: "This is a gamble. We've dropped from first to fifth. Now we have the hard work to do. We've won nothing yet."