Mads Østberg showed no signs of stress as he was reacquainted with the M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC along with starting the new season with a new co-driver, along with a new style of pace notes at Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Østberg drove a confident rally as he took the M-Sport machinery to a fourth place finish, matching his best finishing position at Monte-Carlo.
“There were lots of new things for us to discover this weekend so I’m really satisfied to have equalled my best result at Rallye Monte-Carlo,” said Østberg.
“It’s been a challenging rally, but I think that we coped with everything really well. Ola and I have made a good step forward and we’ll be looking to do the same again in Sweden,” he said as he talked about new co-driver Ola Fløene.
“I also have to thank the team because the car has performed perfectly all weekend. This was a great start and now we’re really looking forward to Sweden where we hope to be able to fight for the podium.”
M-Sport’s Team Principal Malcolm Wilson was happy with the performance the Norwegian put in.
“It’s been a good weekend for us. Mads and Ola’s partnership is coming along nicely and it was great to see him equal his best Rallye Monte-Carlo performance.
“We know how intelligently Mads approaches his rallies and he has shown that he can never be discounted for a strong result. They drove to their own pace whilst perfecting the relationship inside the car and I am sure that they will both be really looking forward to Rally Sweden.
Team-mate Eric Camilli had an unfortunate end to his WRC début for M-Sport as he dropped off the road on SS6; Damage to the rollcage would put the Frenchman out of what had been a promising rally.
“Our event might have been shorter than we had hoped,” said Camilli. “We learnt many things – about the car and about the level of the WRC. On Friday morning I was able to push a bit more and I was really pleased with the times as it was a bit of a surprise to be that competitive that quickly!
“Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way during the afternoon. I really wanted to finish the rally and I think that was the problem because I was driving far too carefully – far too slowly – and slid off the road on a section of ice.
“Unfortunately, there was some damage to the rollcage and we were unable to restart the rally. Of course I was disappointed that my rally ended early but it has not reduced my motivation.
“The times that we were able to set has shown me that we have the potential to be fast one day and this was definitely not a bad rally for me. My ambition is higher than ever and we will be sure to learn from our experiences this weekend.”
Although disappointed with the end result for Camilli and co-driver Nicolas Klinger, Wilson was happy with what he had seen. “It was a shame that Eric’s rally ended prematurely, but I have been really pleased with him and Nicolas. To set the fifth fastest time on only your fourth stage with a world rally car is no mean feat and it just proved to all of us that he has the potential to go all the way.
“He understood his mistake and I have no doubt that he will have learnt a lot this weekend. It was a shame that they missed out on some experience, but they didn’t go home. They stayed with the team until the end of the event. That really meant a lot and they have already gained a lot of respect amongst all of the M-Sport personnel.”
In the WRC2 class Elfyn Evans took the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 to a dominating win, showcasing the upgrades that the team had been working on over the winter.