Mad Østberg has read the road perfectly and is on course to be rewarded with a strong fourth place.
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg is on course to equal his best Rallye Monte-Carlo result – his Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC currently holding a strong fourth place.
The first round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is always a challenge, but Østberg has had to contend with more challenges than most this weekend.
Making a welcome return to the M-Sport team, the Norwegian had to familiarise himself with both the new-evolution Fiesta and a new co-driver in the form of fellow countryman Ola Fløene.
Using the competitive seat time to perfect their set-ups and synchronisation, the pairing displayed a marked improvement throughout the day and set the fourth fastest time through the second pass of “Leger Les Melezes – La Batie Neuve” (SS12) this afternoon.
Performance wise I have been quite happy with the day.
Østberg has read the road perfectly and is on course to be rewarded with a strong fourth place.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, the combination of Elfyn Evans, Craig Parry and the Ford Fiesta R5 EVO are proving a force to be reckoned with.
Despite two punctures costing the Welsh pairing three minutes to the leading pack (on SS1 and SS9), they currently hold a commanding two minute lead – an incredible achievement when considering that they have only had one day of testing prior to the event.
Proving the extent of the upgrades M-Sport have achieved with the new evolution Fiesta R5, Evans has well and truly confirmed the Blue Oval’s position at the top of the WRC’s principal support series.
Mads Østberg (4th) said: “It’s a strange feeling to be holding fourth place on a Tarmac rally and to actually be a little disappointed! We had the ambition of finishing no higher than sixth so as to have a good road position for Rally Sweden – but that’s the way it is and fourth place would be a good result considering how much we have had to discover this weekend.
“Performance wise I have been quite happy with the day. It started off a little difficult in the morning but after service we made some adjustments and it worked out much better. We’ve really enjoyed the afternoon and all we have to do now is get to the end.”
Elfyn Evans (1st WRC 2) said: “The first stage [today, SS9] wasn’t what we wanted as we had to stop and change a puncture. We lost the lead momentarily but managed to get a good gap back to our rivals on the following speed test.
“After that, it has just been a case of managing the rest of the rally to secure the victory. There will be a lot of tricky sections tomorrow so we’re not planning to take any risks and will just focus on bringing the car home.
“I have to say that the car is absolutely incredible – everything and more than everyone expected. It’s really rewarding for the team to see that the performance is as good as we all hoped!”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “Mads has had to familiarise himself with a new team, car and co-driver this weekend – all on the most difficult event of the year. I was pleased to see the progress that he and Ola made this afternoon and they’re on course to equal his best Rallye Monte-Carlo result.
“It’s also fantastic to see Elfyn produce such a dominant performance with the new evolution Fiesta R5. He was unlucky to get another puncture this morning, but the fact that he now holds a two minute lead just proves how competitive these upgrades are.
“More than that however, it’s a pleasure to see him enjoy his driving again. Nothing can build a driver’s confidence quite like success and Elfyn is on course for a great result.”
M-Sport World Rally Team