Mads Østberg has been forced to withdraw from next weekend’s Rally Deutschland, having suffered damage to the same Ford Fiesta R5 he had planned to enter the upcoming World Rally Championship round with during Rally Rzezow.
The Polish event – part of the European Rally Championship – was acting as Østberg’s pre-event warm-up for the second asphalt round of the WRC calendar, but power steering failure ended his rally early. This led to a crash which caused significant damage to his Fiesta, which could not be repaired effectively enough in time to compete in Germany.
“It was scary because it happened suddenly when we went into a very fast corner,” Østberg explained regarding the incident. “Without the power assistance the steering effectively became almost locked, and I just about managed to wrestle the the car through the corner in nearly 180 km/h. We didn`t manage to fix the steering and had to withdraw.”
Rather than driving his regular 2017 specification Fiesta WRC, Østberg was entered into the WRC-2 category with an R5 specification Fiesta, already part of his family team’s inventory for several years.
The difficulty arose from mismatching version of parts, with M-Sport’s newly manufactured spares not directly compatible with the Adapta-owned car. Given the complexities involved in fully repairing the car to the correct specification, the privateer Norwegian outfit have elected to skip the rally altogether.
“Our R5 car is an older version, actually two generations older than the current versions running in WRC2. We can update mechanicals, but there will be issues with the software that we can`t change on such short notice. We cannot control 100 percent that this will not happen again, until we have further updates.”
The withdrawal has also derailed a selection process of a permanent replace for Ola Fløene, who had acted as Østberg’s co-driver until the duo parted ways after Rally Poland. Adapta had implemented a rotating co-driver policy, with the third and final candidate Emil Axelsson scheduled to have his turn at Rally Deutschland.
Despite the late change in plans, Østberg said Axelsson would still be given an opportunity to demonstrate his abilities and vie for a seat alongside him in the WRC.
“Torstein [Eriksen] did a great job in Finland and Patrick [Barth] delivered on the stages we drove in Poland,” he said. “Emil was the third candidate, and now we must find another solution to continue the evaluation process. The three guys are all possible candidates for a permanent seat.”