WRC A FULL 2016
A FOND FAREWELL IN AUSTRALIA.
Next week’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia marks the end of an era as M-Sport’s current Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC contests its last official outing in the FIA World Rally Championship.
10 Nov 2016
Having claimed victory on its debut 2,097 days ago at the 2011 edition of Rally Sweden, the top-specification Fiesta has been entered 531 times on 78 different events – securing 50 top-three finishes and three clean-sweeps of the podium.
As a key figure in the Fiesta’s success, Mads Østberg is responsible for nine podiums and contributed to all three podium lockouts – a statistic which can only be matched by Volkswagen Motorsport.
Partnered by compatriot Ola Fløene, Østberg will be hoping to challenge at the head of the field next week and looking to secure his best result on Australian soil. Despite his vast experience, the Norwegian has only contested the Australian fixture on two previous occasions and secured his best result of fifth when piloting the Fiesta in 2013.
That said, Østberg is no slouch when it comes to the event’s unique stages – posting top-three times on both of his previous encounters. Eager to master the season finale, the Norwegian should not be discounted for a strong result.
Contesting the event for the first time, Éric Camilli and co-driver Benjamin Veillas will be looking to close a year of development with another solid finish. Using the 2016 season to gain experience, Camilli has also shown flashes of speed – posting top-five times on his debut and securing a first stage victory on only the sixth round of the season.
Having never experienced the Australian roads, the Frenchmen will continue to acquire as much knowledge as possible. Keen to make it through all of the stages unscathed, a clean run could also yield a strong result.
But strong results are not easily achieved in Australia – the crews having to work for every tenth of a second. Hard-based gravel roads mean that there is an element of cleaning, but that should not lull the fortunate into a false sense of security with a multitude of challenges to overcome.
The stages themselves provide a mix between tight and twisty forest tracks, and fast and flowing shire lanes. Traversing dense rainforests, trees line the route and the low sun can cause a strobe effect which hampers visibility.
If that weren’t enough, hanging dust can often pose an added challenge and those with full confidence in their pacenotes can often reap the rewards.
A strong result in Australia will be hard-fought, but it would be the perfect way to bid farewell to a car which has delivered so much.
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Mads Østberg said:
“Every year I enjoy coming back to Australia and the unique challenges that it has to offer. It really is like nothing else in the championship – so different to anything else we experience throughout the year.
“The character of the stages changes quite a lot and we often switch from very wide, open roads to tight and twisty sections in the forests. Recce is really important. You need to keep the rhythm in your notes and have every tree and rock noted. It’s a big challenge to end the season.
“The event is a little later this year so we’ll have to see how that affects the advantages and disadvantages of running order. Generally, it’s better to be further back, but there is also a risk of hanging dust which can be really challenging so we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.
“It’s strange to think that I’ve only contested this event twice before, but we will give it our all and always want to achieve the best possible result.”
Éric Camilli said:
“I’m really looking forward to experiencing another new rally and discovering all of the challenges that Australia has to offer. This is my first time at this event so there will be a lot to learn, but we’re really looking forward to it. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a fantastic rally with amazing scenery and stages.
“As with any new event, the pacenotes that we make on the pre-event reconnaissance will be really important. Thankfully, we have made a big step forward in that area this year. Our pacenotes have progressed a lot over the past 12 months, and next week’s event gives us an opportunity to put everything into practice.
“We want to end the season on a high, but it is also important to complete all of the stages and gain maximum experience. I believe that we have already shown the speed that we can be capable of, so we’ll just take each stage as it comes and aim to build on our performance throughout the weekend.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s the end of an era, and Rally Australia provides a fantastic setting for us to say goodbye to the current Fiesta RS WRC – a car which has given us much success over the years.
“After claiming a podium lockout on its competitive debut, the Fiesta became the car of choice for many and the fact that it has been entered more than 500 times at WRC level proves the extent of its popularity and performance.
“Fifty podiums and three clean-sweeps of the podium is a fantastic achievement and something that we are all very proud of. It would be great to wave goodbye to such a successful car with a strong result next week.”
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