ØSTBERG ON COURSE FOR SWEDISH PODIUM
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg is on course to secure yet another podium at Rally Sweden – he and co-driver Ola Fløene holding a strong third place going into tomorrow’s final sprint.
The Norwegian is something of an expert when it comes to the FIA World Rally Championship’s only winter event, but the milder weather meant that the conditions would not provide the snow-master with an advantage this weekend.
Experiencing the power and performance of the 2016 specification Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC for the first time on loose-surface stages, they adopted an air of caution through the opening speed tests to best acclimatise to the unfamiliar conditions.
As a heavy overnight snowfall turned the stages into more familiar territory, the Norwegians soon came into their own. Despite being somewhat disadvantaged as only the fourth car on the road, Østberg set a number of competitive stage times to strengthen his hold on a podium position.
With just the points-paying Power Stage left to contest, the M-Sport driver looks set to maintain his record of never finishing off the podium whilst piloting a Fiesta RS WRC at Rally Sweden.
Elsewhere in the sister M-Sport Fiesta, there was disappointment for Eric Camilli and co-driver Nicolas Klinger who were experiencing Sweden’s specialist stages for the first time.
Despite their inexperience, the pairing proved to be quick learners and set the seventh fastest time on both Röjden and Torsby (SS8 and SS9) – an encouraging feat given the number of WRC drivers in the field.
Unfortunately, they were unable to show further progression when an optimistic pacenote forced their Fiesta RS WRC into a roll on the opening stage of the day (SS10). With substantial damage to their Fiesta and only one stage left to contest, Camilli will not restart tomorrow.
Mads Østberg (3rd) said:
“It’s been a really good day. I was a little scared this morning after quite a big moment in Fredriksberg [SS10], but after that everything has been working really well.
“We’ve been in a big battle for position and quite early on that became our objective for the day. There were quite a few drivers who wanted to take that third place and I think we managed everything quite well – and everything certainly feels a lot more comfortable than it did yesterday.
“It’s nice for all of us to be in this position and it is encouraging to see that we can perform on this level this early in the season. We’ve had some good stage times and the car has performed perfectly all weekend. It’s been an important rally and it will be an important result if it stays like this tomorrow.”
Éric Camilli (DNF) said:
“It was a very difficult rally, especially for us as it was our first time here and only our second outing with a world rally car.
“Yesterday wasn’t so bad. We took everything step-by-step and I was really pleased with the times we were able to set on the last two stages [SS8 and SS9].
“Unfortunately we made a mistake on the first stage this morning [SS10]. It was my fault. I was too optimistic with the pacenote and we went too fast into a corner and rolled the car.
“We were here to learn, and I think we have done that, but it is of course a shame not to have finished the rally. Now I’m just really looking forward to another new challenge at next month’s Rally Mexico.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
13th February 2016
“It’s been another strong day for us and it’s great to see Mads strengthen his hold on third place. He’s on course to secure his fourth Rally Sweden podium behind the wheel of a Fiesta and a result like this will be very encouraging for the events to come.
“Eric also made a good start and proved what a quick learner he is with a vast improvement through yesterday’s final stages. Unfortunately, his mistake this morning meant that he was unable to show any further progression, but the most important thing is that both he and Nicolas are okay and I’m sure they’ll both be looking ahead to Rally Mexico.”