Mads Østberg will pilot a Ford Fiesta R5 in the European Rally Championship as part of his preparations for Rally Deutschland next month, returning to the championship for Rally Rzeszow after making his series debut last year.
The Norwegian has added the event to his schedule as a warm-up for one of only two fully tarmac events on the World Rally Championship calendar this year, which will see the debut of a new partnership with Patrik Barth, having recently parted ways with his regular co-driver Ola Fløene after Rally Poland.
He will enter the event under his the banner of his family team Adapta Motorsport, for whom he also races in a team co-owned with Martin Prokop‘s Jipocar outfit in the WRC. The event comes only four days after the conclusion of the next WRC round, leaving Østberg little time to adjust to his new environment.
“Coming directly from Rally Finland there will be no time to do a test,” he explained. “It will be a new car, a new rally and a new co-driver but it’s good to try some different options heading into the part of the season where there is quite a bit on tarmac.”
Rally Rzeszow represents a return to the ERC category for Østberg, who made his first start in the regional championship at the Rally Islas Canarias, also at the wheel of a Fiesta R5. Having led the opening round of the 2016 championship until a crash at the end of the first day, Østberg will be one of the favourites for victory, but was wary of the championship regulars giving him stiff competition for top honours.
“With fast and experienced drivers like Kajetan Kajetanowicz I’m not expecting it to be easy. Although I don’t know much about the drivers in ERC Junior Under 28, I know their level is very high. I’m going into their field but I will do that with respect. I’m prepared to fight.”
Østberg’s presence at the event will also act as a benchmark for the competitors in the ERC U28 category, the winner of which will earn a single-round drive in next year’s World Rally Championship. Marijan Griebel currently heads the chase for the prize, with Pepe López – the young protege of Carlos Sainz – close behind in his debut ERC season.