After Mikko Hirvonen‘s disqualification from Rally Portugal last weekend, Mads Ostberg inherited first place, his first ever WRC win. On paper at least, it was a landmark achievement, the first privateer to win a rally for nineteen years. Ostberg however has mixed emotions on his first win, and has set his sights on earning another win to prove his Portugal victory was on merit rather than circumstantial.
“To be honest, this doesn’t feel very different from being second,” he said. “This is not because of the result, more the way it happened. If I had won the rally then [on Sunday afternoon], then it would have been a huge thing, but because of the way it happened it’s not feeling the same. It’s a victory in the WRC, but it’s not the way I wanted the first one to come – it feels a bit strange, for sure.
“This definitely makes me more determined to get a proper win. I am still chasing my first proper one and that will be something special when I am on the top of the podium for the first time – I was on the second step this time and I want to be on the top. We will fight for that.”
After hearing of Hirvonen’s disqualification, he called the Citroen driver to discuss the rally, and feels sympathy for the Finn’s exclusion from the event.
“I feel very sorry for Mikko. I rang him in the evening and we talked about it. He feels he has done his job and I just feel sorry for him. Mikko is a very nice guy, he congratulated me on the victory. He told me it was just the way it is and said: ‘It’s your win now and you deserve it.’ He’s a nice guy and it definitely helped me to talk to him that way, he is making it a lot easier for me now.
“It’s how it is: the Citroen was illegal and they get the punishment now.”
Despite being handed the win on a technicality, Ostberg’s win has still garnered much hype in his home country of Norway, and he hopes this result will help him secure more funds to complete the season for his privateer Adapta Ford squad.
“Being the first [WRC] winner from Norway in seven years is very good and I hope it will help in finding sponsors and partners, but we still have work to do. When we worked for the budget before this season, we worked on the same budget as last year – but now the FIA are changing a lot of the rallies. Argentina will take 20 per cent of our budget and that makes it very difficult for the rest of the season. The way things are developing means we need to find more money now.”
The win puts Ostberg third in the championship standings, three points ahead of Hirvonen, and thirteen behind title leader Sebastien Loeb.