ØStberg Moves Up To Fifth On Fierce Finnish Roads
Norway’s Mads Østberg battled his way through some of the world’s fastest and most unforgiving rally stages to finish the second day of Neste Oil Rally Finland fifth overall.
Four M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team crews left the rally base in Jyväskylä early this morning to journey south into the Päijänne Tavastia region. They tackled eight speed tests covering 134.60 km in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars which were broken by only one short 15 minute service in the city of Lahti.
Østberg started this morning in eighth position but three top five stage times including a third-fastest time on the day’s closing 12 km stage elevated the 23-year-old into fifth, 28.6 seconds ahead of Ford Abu Dhabi’s Mikko Hirvonen.
Despite a near-miss with a tree on Stage 6, Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin lie just 10.8 seconds adrift of tenth place. The pair successfully kept their car out of trouble during the day’s afternoon stages to pull into Service D 11th overall.
Henning Solberg had a drama-free day in the team’s other Ford Fiesta RS WRC, gradually improving his stage times to sit tenth overnight, 1.2 seconds adrift of ninth place.
Russia’s Evgeny Novikov started the day with a cautious driving approach, eager to improve his pacenotes and to learn the blisteringly-quick Finnish roads. However, the 20-year-old’s quest was abruptly ended when his Fiesta RS WRC encountered technical problems 5 km towards the end of Stage 8. Novikov was forced to retire but is expected to return for the final day of action under SupeRally regulations.
Mads Østberg said:
“It’s been a good day overall. It didn’t start very well and we lost some time with a spin due to a wrong pacenote but I think we’ve made back that time. The incident lost us about 14 seconds but the strange thing is that I was driving better after the spin – maybe it was because I was feeling more aggressive! It was like something inside me clicked, I can’t explain it but it definitely helped us. I know there is one very fast Finn [Mikko Hirvonen] coming from behind so we will have a big fight with him tomorrow. I will try my best to keep in front of him and I will really push but I know Mikko will also be pushing so we’ll just have to see which way it goes.”
Henning Solberg said:
“I need to get seventh place – this is what I really, really want. Today I have been driving at my own speed and pushing when I have been feeling like it is the right time. I found a good rhythm by the end of the morning and this afternoon we had no problems. I will try to push tomorrow but it’s not simple on a rally like Finland as it is easy to go off the road if you make a small mistake. I just want to test the differentials so we will make some small changes at service but I will try my best tomorrow so that I can finish in a higher position.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“On the whole it’s been a decent day. Our rear tyres were worn out by the last stage and it’s also been a long day but I knew this was never going to be easy. Some of the stages were really slippery too – when it’s like that it can be difficult to keep the back end in line as it slips away so easily. Then we had a very big moment on Stage 6 - we came over a crest a little too fast and nearly collided with a tree, we were lucky as it was really close. The car has been going well and there’s going to be a bit of a battle between myself, Henning and Kris [Meeke] tomorrow. I’d really like to move up a couple of positions so that’s going to be our aim.”
Evgeny Novikov said:
“I am disappointed to have to retire – everything was going to plan, we were learning the roads, getting experience and improving the pacenotes. Then we had the problems on Stage 8 which was definitely not in my plan! I know this is how rallying can be but I did not expect it to happen and I had no warning. Tomorrow I will stick to the plan and learn the stages more - I will not push. This event is perfect preparation for next year when I think I will be much faster.”
by: M-Sport Stobart