M-Sport looking for a change of fortune in Corsica

Ile de beauté beckons

By Franck Drui

24 September 2016 - 22:34
M-Sport looking for a change of (…)

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Éric Camilli will be looking for a change of fortune next week – taking to the wheel of their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs for the FIA World Rally Championship’s (WRC) legendary Tour de Corse.

Based in Corsica – aptly known as the Ile de Beauté – this beautiful island provides the backdrop for one of the WRC’s most well-known and well-loved sealed-surface events.

Always a challenge, tight and twisty mountain roads are often bordered by sharp rock faces and steep drops into the sea below. The narrow and abrasive stages also mean that mistakes are not lightly forgiven – putting pressure on crews and team to deliver an error-free run through the long and demanding speed tests.

In preparation, Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene travelled to Germany’s Rally Niedersachsen where they worked on various aspects of their asphalt driving. Focusing on corner entry and exits, the Norwegians gained a wealth of knowledge that they will be hoping to carry forward.

Corsica will also be a special event for Østberg as he celebrates his 100th WRC rally. The Norwegian started his WRC career at the 2006 edition of Rally Sweden and many of his stand-out performances came at the wheel of the Fiesta RS WRC – challenging for the lead of Rally Sweden in 2011 and winning Rally Portugal in 2012.

In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, the Tour de Corse is very much a home event for Camilli whose family hail from the start town of Ajaccio.

With the disappointments of the previous round firmly behind them, the Frenchman and his compatriot co-driver Benjamin Veillas will be hoping that home advantage carries some weight as they strive to secure a strong result on French soil.

No stranger to the island, Camilli finished fourth overall when the event formed part of the European Rally Championship in 2014 and claimed a podium spot behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5 as part of his WRC 2 campaign last year.

But before Corsica, the UK beckons for the Frenchman who will attend the popular Rallyday event at Castle Combe alongside Welshman Elfyn Evans – flying the flag for Ford at an event that has become a must for all UK-based enthusiasts.

The Tour de Corse marks Evans’ seventh and final WRC 2 event and he and co-driver Craig Parry will be hoping to close their campaign with the victors’ champagne.

Having delivered his best ever WRC performance when the championship travelled to the island last year, Evans knows what it takes to deliver a good result here and will be seeking a strong performance behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta R5 Evo.

Mads Østberg said:

“It’s pretty amazing to think that this will be my 100th WRC event. When I look back at those early years, to where I am now, I think I can be proud of what I’ve achieved, but the hard work is not over yet.

“Corsica is always a challenge and I’m sure that this year will be no different. We’ve not had the benefit of a pre-event test, but we took our Ford Fiesta R5 to Rally Niedersachsen earlier this month which proved really useful.

“The aim was to improve our driving on Tarmac and I think we achieved that. We had teams on the stages observing our corner entry and exits, and I hope that we can bring all that we learnt forward to Corsica – where the aim will be to improve where we left off in Germany.

“The Tour de Corse is a unique rally and it has a lot of history so it’s always nice to be there. Asphalt is not my preferred surface, but when you hook up a good stage on these roads it’s quite special and very satisfying.”

Éric Camilli said:

“This is my home event in more ways than one, and an event where I do have some experience. My father’s family are from Ajaccio so it will definitely be a special one for me with lots of friends and family all out spectating.

“It’s not an easy rally, but we have done well there in the past. I first contested the event in 2014 – when it was part of the European Rally Championship – and finished fourth overall. It will be a challenge to repeat that in the WRC, but you never know and you can never predict the result in Corsica!

“The stages are very long with so many tight and twisty corners. You have to have good notes and be fully focussed from start to finish. Germany was obviously a big disappointment for us, but that is in the past. We’re feeling well prepared and fully refreshed after the unexpected break; and determined to produce a good result on French soil.

“Our goal will be to deliver a consistent performance on these beautiful roads, but if the feeling is there, I’d hope to show some good speed too. I can’t wait to get out on the stages with the Fiesta RS WRC. But first, I get to drive at Rallyday in the UK which will be a lot of fun!”

Elfyn Evans said:

“Going back to Corsica brings a lot of special memories from last year. The weather conditions were a little unusual, but I think that was one of my best performances behind the wheel of a rally car.

“The last month certainly hasn’t been a quiet one for me. We wrapped up the British Rally Championship with wins in Ulster and the Isle of Man and attended the media day for Wales Rally GB as well as an event for team partners NGK. This weekend, I’ll be at Rallyday which is a fantastic event and it’s always good to get as much seat time as possible in the lead-up to a rally.

“This will be our last outing in the WRC 2 championship. Our goal is always to score maximum points and if we can have a clean run then I think that is achievable. We’ll go out there and do our best, but in terms of the championship it will be a case of wait and see after that.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“Congratulations to Mads on what will be his 100th WRC event. It’s a big achievement for any driver and I’m proud to say that a lot of his stand-out performances came at the wheel of a Fiesta.

“We’ve not had a pre-event test for this event, but he contested Rally Niedersachsen earlier this month to work on his asphalt driving. The goal will be to improve on his performance in Germany, and we’re confident that he can do that.

“This is Éric’s second home event of the year and he is determined to produce a solid performance next weekend. He knows this event quite well and is no stranger to the island which will certainly help. Germany was obviously a big disappointment for everyone, but I’m pleased to say that he has already put it behind him and is fully focused on getting the job done in Corsica.

“This will be Elfyn’s final WRC 2 event. We had a small team working alongside him and they have to compete without the advantage of a large test programme. Regardless, they have taken everything in their stride and proved the performance of the Fiesta R5 whilst truly taking the fight to their WRC 2 rivals. I’m certain Elfyn has the ability to secure maximum points next week, then, it will be up to the others to try and catch him.”



Motorsport news