M-Sport World Rally Teamâ€™s Mads Ã˜stberg has equalled his best Rallye Monte-Carlo result at the opening round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) â€“ bringing his Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC home in fourth place.
The opening round of the season is always a challenge, but it was even more so for Ã˜stberg who had to familiarise himself with a new team, car and co-driver â€“ fellow countryman Ola FlÃ¸ene.
For the past seven years, Ã˜stberg had been navigated through the stages by a Swedish voice calling a different style of pacenote. The change would take some perfecting, but he and FlÃ¸ene used the competitive seat time wisely â€“ growing in confidence throughout the weekend.
Proving how intelligent he is in his approach to all rallies, Ã˜stberg read the road perfectly and was rewarded with a strong result ahead of next monthâ€™s Rally Sweden.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Ã‰ric Camilli showed real promise on his WRC debut. Proving to be a quick learner, the Frenchman set the fifth fastest time on what was only his fourth competitive stage in a world rally car â€“ an incredible achievement given his limited experience.
Unfortunately, this lack of experience would be to his disadvantage on Friday afternoon when he and co-driver Nicolas Klinger slid off the road on an ice-strewn section of SS6.
With damage to the rollcage, the pairing were forced to make an untimely exit but refused to leave the service park. Joining the team for the remainder of the event, their enthusiasm and determination to succeed has not subsided.
Mads Ã˜stberg : “There were lots of new things for us to discover this weekend so Iâ€™m really satisfied to have equalled my best result at Rallye Monte-Carlo. Itâ€™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 weâ€™ll be looking to do the same again in Sweden.
â€œI also have to thank the team because the car has performed perfectly all weekend. This was a great start and now weâ€™re really looking forward to Sweden where we hope to be able to fight for the podium.â€
Ã‰ric Camilli : â€œOur event might have been shorter than we had hoped, but we learnt many things â€“ 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!
â€œUnfortunately, it didnâ€™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 â€“ far too slowly â€“ and slid off the road on a section of ice.
â€œUnfortunately, 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.
â€œThe 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.â€
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE : â€œItâ€™s been a good weekend for us. Mads and Olaâ€™s partnership is coming along nicely and it was great to see him equal his best Rallye Monte-Carlo performance.
â€œWe 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.
â€œIt was a shame that Ericâ€™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.
â€œHe 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 didnâ€™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.â€