WRC A FULL 2016
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M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs will be competing on home soil next week – when the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to the famous forests of Wales Rally GB.
21 oct 2016
But the team were in very different forests this week – putting the 2017 Ford Fiesta RS WRC through her paces on Finland’s legendary jump-strewn roads. With testing for next year now in full swing, the team have moved to more specific areas of the test schedule and momentum is building ahead of a spectacular new era.
There might not be as many jumps next week, but fast, tree-lined tracks are definitely on the agenda – the adrenaline-fueled stages matched by the passion of the hardy Welsh supporters.
The gravel speed tests might not be overly technical, but the conditions can make for an exceptionally challenging weekend which is intensified by the fact that there will be no midday services next week.
One never knows what to expect in Wales – rain, fog and even snow not being unheard of. This year’s earlier date could even see a dry rally, but the crews must still give the stages the respect they deserve with a multitude of obstacles lying in wait to ensnare anyone who dares to venture even slightly off line.
With a wealth of experience at the British fixture, Mads Østberg knows the Welsh forests better than most. The Norwegian is relishing a return to gravel, and next week’s event is one of his favourites with similar terrain to that of his homeland.
The Norwegian has contested the rally on 10 previous occasions and secured his best result of second overall when piloting the Fiesta RS WRC in 2011. Between them, Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene can boast three podium finishes in Wales – putting them a cut above most and holding them in good stead for the challenges ahead.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas have only contested the Welsh fixture on one previous occasion but were quick to get to grips with the specialist roads. Leading the WRC 2 category, the pairing secured eight stage wins before a turbo issue denied a well-deserved victory on the final stage.
Keen to end the season on a high, a clean rally is the target for Camilli. But, with his loose-surface driving going from strength to strength, the Frenchman will be keen to show pace if the opportunity arises.
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Mads Østberg said:
“We’ve learnt a lot on the last few Tarmac rallies, but I must admit that it feels good to be going back to gravel – and to one of my favourite events on the calendar.
“There is something special about Wales Rally GB and we really want to be back challenging for the podium. I’ve always enjoyed these stages and I’ve been competitive on them too. I’ve been on the podium twice before, and the aim is to be in a position to fight for those top positions again this year.
“The stages really are fantastic. They’re so fast and smooth and you can get into a really good rhythm. They’re actually quite similar to some of the stages we find in Norway, so I definitely feel at home in Wales. The key is to feel comfortable and confident in the tricky conditions, and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do.
“The event is a little earlier this year so we could actually see a dry rally which would be amazing. I’ve done the rally in the dry once before and it was brilliant. But whatever the weather, I really don’t mind, I’m just looking forward to throwing the car into those fast gravel corners!”
Éric Camilli said:
“Wales Rally GB is a really special event for me, and it will be even more special this year as it’s the home rally for my team. They have been so supportive this season, and it would mean a lot to repay them with a good result next week.
“We’ve only competed in Wales once before – in WRC 2 – but we were competitive from the start and came really close to the win. This year will be completely different, but I’m looking forward to it and to building on our gravel performances from earlier in the year.
“The stages are really fast and flowing and even in the wet the grip levels can be surprisingly high. We’ll need to take some time to discover how a world rally car handles and reacts to the conditions, but we always want to do our maximum.
“The most important thing is to finish the event, but if the feeling is there, it will be nice to push the limits and see how far we’ve come.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Wales Rally GB is always a real highlight in the season and, as our home event, we’re always particularly motivated to do well there.
“Mads knows this event exceptionally well and a return to gravel should hopefully see him challenging towards the head of the field. He’s always performed strongly here, and I know how determined he is to make a return to the podium.
“Éric might have only contested this event once before, but its specialist nature didn’t seem to faze him and he got to grips with the stages surprisingly quickly. He came very close to winning the WRC 2 category last year, but this year will be a completely different challenge. The aim will be to deliver another clean rally, but I know he’ll also want to post some strong times if the feeling is right.”
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