WRC A FULL 2016
M-SPORT PREPARE TO POUNCE IN PORTUGAL.
13 May, 2016
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Éric Camilli return to Europe fully prepared next week as the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to one of the most vibrant events of the year – Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
A firm favourite amongst fans and competitors alike, the Portuguese fixture never fails to excite and M-Sport will be hoping for some closely-fought competition to thrill what are some of the sport’s most enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans.
But the going won’t be easy and the team will face some stiff competition from what is one of the strongest entries of the year – through one of the championship’s most demanding routes.
A variation of stages mean that the crews will need to get up to speed quickly and maintain it throughout the course of the weekend.
A shrewd tyre strategy can also make all the difference. Traditionally, the sandy, clay-based stages favour Michelin’s soft compound but as the route gets longer and the stages become more abrasive, they can wear faster which puts the harder compound in prime position.
If that weren’t enough, the Portuguese stages are not without their hazards. Rocks and deep ruts over the second pass mean that the drivers will need to be extra vigilant in pursuit of the fastest time.
One driver who knows how to tackle all that Portugal has to offer is Mads Østberg – who secured victory behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in 2012.
Having made a strong start to the season, the Norwegian is currently holding third place in the drivers’ standings and is one of only two competitors to have secured a top-five finish at every event so far this year.
Keen to be challenging for the top results more regularly, Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene can never be discounted and will be one to watch if everything goes their way next week.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Camilli and co-driver Benjamin Veillas are in a positive mood ahead of a string of more familiar events.
Looking to continue his development, the Frenchman aims to complete all of the stages but could well spring a surprise or two now that he is on more familiar territory.
Next week will also see Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry continue their WRC 2 campaign behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo.
The Welsh pairing have had a hugely impressive start to the season and will be looking to continue that in Portugal – with the aim of securing victory amidst some of the strongest competition of the year.
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Mads Østberg said:
“Portugal holds a lot of very special memories for me and we’ve done well there in the past. It’s an event that I enjoy and we’ll be hoping to do well there again this year. There are a real mix of stages and surfaces, so you really have to be at the top of your game. You need to maintain a good rhythm, and the driver, co-driver and car all have to be in sync with one another.
“We’ve had a good start to the season with two podiums from the first four events, but we always want to be fighting for the top results and it’s fair to say that we’re not quite there just yet. Since Argentina, we’ve had a lot of discussions internally and I hope that we’ll soon be in a position to challenge for the top results more regularly – something that we’re all hoping will start in Portugal next week.”
Éric Camilli said:
“I’m really looking forward to returning to Europe and events that I have some knowledge of. It’s not been the easiest of starts to the season, but the experience over the last four events has been really important and the more kilometres we do, the more I understand everything that is required to compete at this level.
“Last year’s Rally de Portugal was my first FIA World Rally Championship event with a four-wheel-drive car so it feels very special to be returning behind the wheel of a world rally car just one year later.
“We’re not focussed on results for the moment, but everything will certainly feel a lot more familiar and I hope that helps us achieve our goals. We want to complete all of the stages, but if we feel comfortable we’ll certainly push on a bit more to see what times are possible.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“Heading back to Europe, there is going to be a lot of competition but I’m really looking forward to it. This is a nice event and there are always loads of fans out on the stages which is great to see.
“The character of the stages is quite mixed with a variation of surfaces. You have to be on the ball to adapt to the conditions and have the right tyre choice at all times.
“As always, our goal will be to the secure the victory and that’s what we’ll be aiming for next week.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s always great to kick-start the European season in Portugal. The fans there have a real passion for their motorsport and they are amongst some of the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable in the world.
“We’ll be hoping to deliver some close-fought competition and I believe that both Mads and Éric are capable of springing a surprise or two next week.
“In the WRC 2 series, this is one of the strongest entries that we have seen for some time and it’s great to see so many Fiestas out in force. Despite the increased competition, Elfyn’s goal remains the same and he is more than capable of delivering another victory.”
Anna Louise Rudd
Media M-Sport WRT
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