M-Sport set for spectacular season start
"Monte-Carlo tests almost everything you need to be a world-class driver"
M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Éric Camilli will get their 2016 FIA World Rally Championship campaign off to a spectacular start as they pilot their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs on next week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo.
In what is one of the most challenging, prestigious but unpredictable events of the year, the cars are prepared to Tarmac specification, but this is so much more than an asphalt rally.
The weather can be extremely changeable and it is not unheard of for the crews to experience ice, snow and dry asphalt in the same stage. Due to its unpredictability, compromise is key and the team will often opt for unusual combinations of Michelin’s studded and dry weather tyres to make the best of the conditions.
As one of the most daunting events on the calendar, this is a true test of any driver’s ability – challenging every aspect of what it takes to become one of sport’s most formidable competitors.
Experience can often be a key ingredient to success, but Østberg took to the Monegasque event with great ease. Contesting the rally for the first time in 2013, he secured a highly respectable sixth place and has finished just shy of the podium on his last two encounters.
This year will see the Norwegian join forces with a new co-driver in the form of fellow countryman Ola Fløene. The pairing have sat together before – Fløene joining a younger Østberg for some of his first rallies in 2004 – but next week’s event will be the first true test of their partnership.
The pairing has spent a lot of time perfecting their notes over the winter break and Fløene’s experience speaks for itself. Securing a podium finish at the event last year, he and Østberg could well be fighting for the same result next week.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Camilli will be making his competitive debut at rallying’s highest level. There is no more daunting start to a career than at Rallye Monte-Carlo, but hailing from Nice, the Frenchman should have the home crowd’s support on his side.
Partnered by experienced co-driver Nicolas Klinger, the duo have completed two comprehensive test sessions with the M-Sport team. Growing accustomed to the Fiesta RS WRC and experimenting with a number of different set-ups, they’ll be looking to get their season off to a solid start.
M-Sport will also run the new evolution Ford Fiesta R5 of Elfyn Evans. Having participated at Rallye Monte-Carlo for the past two years, the Welshman is accustomed to the challenges ahead and he and new co-driver Craig Parry will be looking to affirm the Blue Oval’s position at the head of the WRC 2 standings.
Mads Østberg said:
“Rallye Monte-Carlo is one of the classics. It’s a fantastic rally with some great stages but the amount of challenges that we have to face over the course of the weekend is unbelievable!
“You can never learn this event – it’s different every time you’re there and I think that will be the same again this year. It’s a rally that I enjoy, but when you’re preparing you have no idea what challenges you are actually going to be faced with. Personally, I’ll be hoping for lots of snow and a lot of difficult tyre choices!
“This will also be the first time – in a long time – that Ola and I will sit together in competition. It always takes a while to fine-tune a new partnership as everything has to be perfect, but honestly, I don’t think it will cause us any problems.
“We’ve not done a rally together since 2004, but so far everything is working really well. It has been a lot of work for us as Ola has had to translate all of the pacenotes into proper Norwegian, but both of us are really happy with the way things are going and I’m confident that we will make a strong team.
“I feel as though I’m well prepared and we have had some really good tests over the last couple of months. I think that we will be able to fight for a good result – but it doesn’t have to be too good as we also want a good road position ahead of a big push at Rally Sweden!”
Éric Camilli said:
“I am really looking forward to next week and to making my debut with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Of course we all know that it is a difficult rally with really tricky conditions, but the adrenaline is high and I can’t wait to get started.
“Coming from Nice, this is a home rally for me but to be honest there really is no such thing as a home advantage in Monte-Carlo! You never know what conditions you are going to encounter and a lot can be decided by the tyres you opt to take for each loop.
“We have had a series of really good tests and we were able to work on a lot of different set-ups with the team. It was a really special feeling to bring these first tests to a successful close as an official M-Sport driver, but now it is time for the big test to begin!
“Our first target will be to finish the rally, but if we have a good feeling with the car then we will of course see what is possible. At the end of the day this is all totally new for us. We know that this is the best level of rallying in the world, but we don’t yet know the extent of that level. We just have to drive to the best of our ability, see where we are and build from there.”
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel and discovering the extent of the [Ford] Fiesta R5 upgrades. The team have worked really hard on this evolution and I have to say that the initial feeling has been very positive.
“This will be my third time at Rallye Monte-Carlo and the experience will definitely help. I know a lot more about the rally than I did this time two years ago, but you never really know what to expect and we’ll be relying on a lot of information from the team.
“I’ll also have a new co-driver for this event and it will inevitably take some time to perfect that partnership. We’ve spent a lot of time practicing pacenotes over the Christmas break so we’re feeling well prepared, but there really is no substitute for competition.
“The stages in Monte-Carlo are really nice to drive and I really enjoy them; the challenge comes from the conditions. But regardless of how unpredictable the event can be, we’re heading there with one goal in mind – and that is to win the WRC 2 category."
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Rallye Monte-Carlo always provides an exciting start to the season. It tests almost everything you need to be a world-class driver and I’m looking forward to seeing what our new team will be able to deliver.
“This is definitely Mads’ strongest Tarmac event and he has proven that he has the ability to do well here. I am sure that he and Ola will get into their rhythm very quickly and I see no reason why they can’t be challenging for the podium positions throughout the course of the weekend.
“It will be a tricky start for Eric, but hopefully the home support will see him settle into a good rhythm. Monte is always a daunting rally, and he is experiencing it on his world rally car debut. There is no expectation on his shoulders, but he could well spring a surprise or two next week.
“I’m also looking forward to seeing Elfyn behind the wheel of the new evolution Ford Fiesta R5. It was important for us to have an experienced driver behind the wheel and I fully expect him to be challenging for the top positions.”
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