Ostberg does Stobart proud
With high five in Argentina
M-Sport Stobart Ford’s Scandinavian pairing of Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson posted their fourth top-five finish of the season in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC after an extremely demanding Rally Argentina.
Østberg reported the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship as one of the toughest in his rally career and despite tackling the South American event for the first time, maintained a consistent pace throughout the three-day rally to finish an impressive fifth overall.
Despite Britain’s Matthew Wilson reporting this year’s Rally Argentina as the roughest he had experienced, he and co-driver Scott Martin finished eighth - the duo’s fifth points-finish this season.
Friday’s stages totalling 156.44 km proved drama-free for the M-Sport Stobart team-mates who responded well to the challenge of contesting a mixed gravel and asphalt road surface. Friday also marked the first time that Østberg or Wilson had driven the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt.
At the end of the first loop, only 5.7 seconds separated the two team-mates but Østberg edged ahead during the day’s closing stages to complete the first day 32.2 seconds ahead of Wilson.
Saturday’s stages included approximately 20 km of asphalt and provided an added challenge to the blisteringly quick rock-strewn roads. Disaster struck for Wilson on Stage 10 when he hit a banking and knocked the tyre off the rim, causing a puncture and dropping him back into eighth.
Intermittent power steering problems were a minor issue for Østberg on Saturday morning but during the repeat afternoon pass, the Scandinavian reported a good car set-up and moved up into fifth as a result of Latvala’s retirement on Stage 14. Østberg posted two top-five stage times in the afternoon including a fourth-fastest stage time on the closing Santa Rosa/San Agustin test.
Sunday’s mammoth 48.21 km opening Ascochinga test - the longest stage so far this season - proved troublesome for Wilson whose Fiesta RS WRC ground to a halt after a water splash. It is suspected that the problem was caused by water in the engine but the pair managed to restart the car and made it safely to the end of the stage. The British duo lost around six minutes as a result.
Despite this early setback, Wilson bounced back and finished with a flourish after posting two top-five times on the event’s closing stages.
Team-mate Østberg adopted a cautious driving approach on Sunday’s stages desperate to consolidate his fifth-place position. The young Norwegian pulled into the final service at Carlos Paz delighted with ten valued drivers’ points on his debut in Argentina.
Mads Østberg said:
“I’m very happy to have made it to the end of Rally Argentina and to finish in this position, it’s been such a difficult event. I was aiming for sixth and we finished fifth so of course that is good – OK, Jari-Matti’s retirement is not the way we wanted to move up the leaderboard but that is how it happens sometimes. We have done quite well inside the car this weekend, we have made some changes to the pacenotes and we’re now well prepared for next year’s event. Now we’ve had two rallies without any problems so we are very happy with that. I’m really looking forward to the next two events now because I have been there before - hopefully we can push more to the guys at the top instead of having to learn the roads like we have had to on this rally. Now I must concentrate on the fifth round of the Norwegian Rally Championship next weekend when we return to the Ford Fiesta S2000 and hope that I can retain our lead.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“I’ve really enjoyed this event – the stages today and Friday were awesome and the fans are just unbelievable. The landscape on some of the stages is out of this world and it’s a real pleasure to drive on such a great event like this. For sure, we could have potentially finished a couple of places higher but obviously we had the puncture yesterday and the small problem with the car after the water splash today. We lifted the bonnet to try and figure out what was wrong and weren’t sure initially whether the problems had come from the engine or the electronics but we removed some of the water and managed to get the car going again. It’s been incredibly rough on the roads this weekend – definitely as tough as I can remember it being before. The long stage today was an incredible test of endurance but at least we only had to do it once. The surface is so rough and you can hear so many knocks from underneath the car which really makes you wonder how much more it can take – but rallies like this just show you how strong the car really is.”
M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Argentina is renowned for being a very difficult event – the stages are some of the roughest you will find and the mix of road surfaces made tyre wear and set-up an added challenge this year. Considering this is the first time that Mads has been to Argentina, he has done an incredible job to finish in the top five. He’s proved himself that he can rise to any challenge and his mature approach will undoubtedly pay dividends over the remainder of the season. Matthew had a good run on Friday but was unlucky with the puncture he incurred yesterday and it was a shame that he lost time on the opening stage today. However, he made it to the end of a very difficult event which is the most important thing and both he and Mads thoroughly deserve the 18 points haul for the team.”
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