M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Éric Camilli will be looking to take a step forward when the FIA World Rally Championship returns to the Mediterranean for this week’s Rally Italia Sardegna.The island setting makes for ideal rally territory, but the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC drivers will have to have their wits about them as they traverse what is one of the season’s most arduous and abrasive routes.
The gravel stages can be exceptionally fast but also hide a multitude of obstacles. Littered with bushes, trees and rocks, the narrow tracks leave no room for error and even the smallest of mistakes can be heavily punished.
Road position can also play a big part in the outcome of the rally as the hard-based roads must be swept of their sandy covering by the leading cars. That’s bad news for Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene who have become victims of their own success of late.
Sardinia always provides a really tricky event.
Having produced a highly consistent start to their season, the Norwegians find themselves high in the championship standings which comes hand-in-hand with an early running order.
Since returning to gravel, Østberg has also struggled for confidence whilst down-shifting in an absence of grip, but the team have not been resting on their laurels and implemented some further solutions during the pre-event test.
It’s hoped that these findings will return the combination of Østberg and the Fiesta to the top of the timesheets but the Norwegian had another event to contest before the updates could be tested in competition.
Back behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo, he stormed to victory on the fifth round of the Norwegian Rally Championship at last weekend’s Aurskog-Høland Rally; and he’ll be looking to carry that momentum forward to Sardinia.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Camilli and co-driver Benjamin Veillas produced a break-through performance at last month’s Rally de Portugal.
Improving all aspects of what it takes to compete at rallying’s highest league, the Frenchmen have enhanced everything from their pacenote system, to better understanding the set-up of their Fiesta RS WRC and will be looking to make further progress next week.
Having contested the Italian fixture as part of their WRC 2 campaign last year, the pairing have some knowledge of the event and held a strong podium position before being side-lined with a technical issue.
Keen to progress further, Camilli will be aiming for another strong result and is capable of springing another surprise or two this week.