In Mads Ostberg's first exclusive column on Crash.net for 2013, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team man looks back on Rally Sweden, where he put his Ford Fiesta RS WRC car on the podium and gave the team its first rostrum in its new guise...
A warm welcome to my first column on Crash.net
and after my first podium with the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team in Sweden, I can't think of a better way to start...
It is, of course, going to be a big year for me in 2013 and I'm looking forward to bringing you all the inside story on my season. It was interesting to read Petter Solberg's 'Hollywood magic' columns last year and before that the views of 'Flying Finn' Jari-Matti Latvala, so it is quite cool to be following on from them and of course keep the Ford flag flying. I'm also hopeful I am going to have lots of positive things to write about.
That brings me nicely back to last weekend in Sweden and after my sixth place finish on my Rallye Monte Carlo debut, I was very pleased to get on the podium in only my second event with the team. I only had the two Seb's [Ogier and Loeb] ahead of me, and a lot of other very good drivers were behind. Of course, my aim was higher, as I really wanted to win, but as things turned out, to get on the podium was very good.
The event began well and after posting the second best time in qualifying we were well set-up for the opening day. However on the very first stage on Friday, SS2, Lesjofors 1, I saw the warnings on the dash...
First it was for the leaking water, and then the engine was overheating. Just after that we stopped on the road section to have a proper look and see what we could do. We managed to stop the leaking, and used the energy drinks from our camel backs, snow and windscreen washer fluid to refill the cooling system. Creative eh?
It was very frustrating at the time, however, and also very stressful. We set a good time in the next stage, and were second quickest, but we also got that 20-second penalty for being late to the SS3 time control, and I almost could not believe the bad luck.
We had to re-adjust our heads following that, but the next target was easy - we had to get some time back from Latvala and get on the rostrum.
It was a good fight and very satisfying to get by him on Saturday afternoon and then pull out a bit of a gap. We made a plan to get the seconds back, and then managed to stay ahead, finishing 6.1 seconds up at the end. Everything worked as planned and to get on the podium in Sweden for the third year in a row was pretty cool. We also set some good times, winning the penultimate stage, and setting 14 top-three times, and that shows what is possible.
All-in-all except for the incident on Friday morning, my Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC car was spot on. We did change the set-up a bit on Sunday morning, but after that, it was again running perfectly.
Rally Sweden is always a great event and this year was no different. The snow was there, it wasn't too cold and there were no delays! And I really enjoyed driving one day in Norway too. It's always nice to drive at 'home'.
The atmosphere was amazing as well – as it always is. The people are so enthusiastic and all of them cheer for every single driver. It is also quite special for me to see all the Norwegian flags out on the stages. I just love driving on snow and while it would be great to have another snow event on the WRC calendar, I wouldn't want to replace any of the events that are currently there.
The result in Sweden moved me up to third in the Drivers' Championship and with Sebastien Loeb only doing four rounds in 2013, I am now effectively the closest rival to Sebastien Ogier. That's nice and I'm happy to be third, but it's only two events. It is still impossible to predict anything regarding the rest of the year, although it does look like Ogier is going to be difficult to beat. However, I will be there and I will keep pushing, starting at the next event, Rally Mexico.
Having done tarmac, ice and snow, I am really looking forward to getting onto gravel and I like the Leon-based event. There is an amazing buzz around the rally and the atmosphere on the stages is incredible. And of course the nice temperature is a bonus too! I've done well on my previous visits to Mexico, finishing fourth last year and fifth in 2011, so this time I'd like to get on the podium - and the top step would be my preference.
That's all for now...Mads Ostberg
To keep tabs on the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team's progress in 2013, simply follow this link: www.qatarmsportwrt.com