M-Sport cleared for Finland take off

"It’s time for a comeback"

By Franck Drui

25 July 2016 - 08:34
M-Sport cleared for Finland take off

M-Sport’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC came tantalising close to victory in Poland, and the team will be looking to prove that pace again next week; when the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to the legendary roads of Neste Rally Finland.

Famed for its high speed and spectacular jumps, the event has become known as the Gravel Grand Prix. The stages combine a mix of wide roads with narrower, more technical sections, but speed is a constant and the famous jumps – or ‘yumps’ – have become synonymous with the event.

Precise pacenotes and perfect delivery is required from the co-drivers, while the drivers must tap into their inner ‘sisu’ – a Finnish word which loosely translates to ‘having guts.’

A well set-up car that fills the crew with confidence can also make all the difference, and M-Sport’s WRC crews conducted a comprehensive, week-long test in the lead-up to the event so as to secure just that. Discovering the optimum set-up on a mix of roads, all are now well-placed to challenge for a strong result.

In the M-Sport World Rally Team camp, Poland might not have gone to plan for Mads Østberg but the Norwegian is capable of a comeback and will be keen to do just that.

When he last took to the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC in Finland, Østberg was on the podium, and he’ll be looking for a repeat performance of that next week.

He and co-driver Ola Fløene certainly know their way around the Finnish forests. With 19 previous appearances between them, they’ll be looking to use that to their advantage.

In the adjoining service bay, Éric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas can boast just one previous start apiece.

The French pairing contested the event for the first time last year, and were quick out of the blocks – setting a time just 3.7 seconds adrift of works driver and local hero Esapekka Lappi – before their pace was cut short by a mistake on the third speed test.

Having re-joined under Rally 2 regulations, they gained vital experience and will be looking to put that knowledge to good use when returning to Finland’s famous forests with the power and performance of a world rally car.

Also returning to action are WRC 2 Championship leaders Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry. Piloting their Ford Fiesta R5 Evo, the pairing are hungry for victory but will have a tough fight on their hands as they go head-to-head with some of Finland’s most promising, home-grown talents.

Testing on the Monday before the rally, the pairing will need to get up to speed quickly but tend to excel when the odds are stacked against them.

The Welshmen beat the Swedes in Sweden and will be looking to replicate that next week by beating the Finns in Finland.

Mads Østberg said:

“It’s time for a comeback and we’re fully focussed on Rally Finland. We’ve all been working really hard in the lead-up to this event, and myself and Ola have spent a lot of time preparing. We’re determined to return to the stage-winning pace we showed in Sardinia.

“Eighth place in Poland was not what we came for, but I was ninth there last year and ended up on the podium in Finland. We need to keep that in mind and focus on being as competitive as we can from the very first stage.

“This is one of the events that everyone looks forward to. It’s such an adrenaline rush and when you hook up that perfect stage there really is no better feeling. We’re looking forward to that, and I can promise you that we’ll be aiming for a strong result. If everything goes to plan, there is no reason why we can’t be challenging for the podium again.”

Éric Camilli said:

“Rally Finland is a very special event, and I can’t wait to discover these stages for the first time in a world rally car. We have some knowledge of the rally from last year, but this year will be a completely new challenge. The speed of the world rally cars on these roads is incredible. We really enjoyed our test and did a lot of work with our engineer which should see us well-placed for the rally.

“Even though the event didn’t go to plan for us last year, we were pleased with our speed. With only a few gravel events under our belt, we were still discovering what it takes to perform on that surface but were able to set some really competitive times.

“We’re keen to keep up the same level of progress that we have shown recently. We’ll take everything in our stride and focus on our own rally, but I hope to build on the speed we had in Poland.”

Elfyn Evans said:

“The WRC 2 field is extremely strong at the moment and it will be a challenge to beat the Scandinavians on their home turf. This is probably one of the most competitive events of the year, but we’re ready to give it our all. We’re feeling well prepared and ready to challenge for the win, but we know it won’t be easy.

“Speed and precision is what we’ll need. The stages are so fast that any time loss is hard to recover. You need to have precise notes and the confidence to drive to the maximum. We’ve shown some pretty good speed here in the past so, if we can couple that with a clean run, anything is possible.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“After such a strong performance for the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in Poland, we’re keen to show the same level of competition in Finland. We know that the car has the speed to challenge for victories, and we’ll give all of our drivers the tools to perform to the best of their ability.

“Mads is determined to make a comeback next week. He knows the Finnish forests well, and he’s had two podiums there over the last three years – the first of which being delivered behind the wheel of the Fiesta.

“Éric is looking forward to returning to another event he has experienced before, but he also knows that this will be a completely different challenge to last year. He’s working extremely hard at the moment and is determined to continue his fast-track progression.

“Elfyn will also be in action in Finland, and he has shown some good speed here in the past. He’ll be facing some of the strongest competition of the year and history has proven that it is not easy to beat the Finns on their home turf, but if he has a clean run, anything is possible.”



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