In Mads Ostberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team man looks back on Rally de Portugal, where he again showed the pace to run at the front of the pack...
I have a bit of a sense of déjà vu as I write this as, much like in Mexico, there were a lot of positives for us to take away from Rally de Portugal – even if the end result wasn't what we were hoping for at the end of it.
Going into the event, I was in confident mood as Rally de Portugal is one of my favourite events on the calendar. It's a tough and challenging rally both for cars and crews, but good fun driving it. The atmosphere is incredible with so many people watching on at places and they are all so enthusiastic and cheer for everybody.
Things had started well after qualifying, when we were fourth fastest in our M-Sport-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Everything seemed to be working well and I was really looking forward to the start of the event.
I felt really comfortable in the car and was confident about our chances for the weekend ahead. As we got ready for the opening day of competition, I felt sure that a podium finish was well within sight.
When the 'proper' action got underway, we made a good start and at the end of SS2, we were sitting in first place. We had the speed, and the car was absolutely perfect. At that point, I was feeling really confident. Then we went into SS3.
Sadly, that was where things went wrong. In my pace-notes, I had a four and we made it through the first pass no problem so I'm guessing that I heard the note wrong. We've had a look at the onboard footage but there are so many rocks hitting the chassis at that point that it's impossible to hear what Jonas [Andersson - my co-driver], is saying. That could explain why I heard four!
Whatever the reason, the end result was that we had a big off and we rolled several times. Luckily Jonas answered me when I asked if he was okay, which was the most important thing.
While we were forced to retire from the day, we were able to rejoin under Rally 2 for Saturday and I knew then that there was a chance that we could fight our way back into the points, despite the fact we went into the second day down in 56th place.
Ninth position was my goal – I knew it was ambitious and that we would have to show some really good speed to do it whilst running so early on the road. Looking at it now, I am very happy with our performance and I think we did a fantastic job considering the road position.
We were helped by the fact that the car was perfect. It was fantastic all weekend and I felt confident to push as hard as I could. That just makes it more of a shame when I think about what happened on Friday, because we definitely had the full package this weekend. I feel we could have challenged for the victory.
I think our pace was shown by our result on the Power Stage at the end of the event. Considering that I was cleaning the road, and the fact that [Sebastien] Ogier had twelve cars ahead of him, it shouldn't have been possible to finish second. But I did it. Like I said in Mexico, I must be the fastest road sweeper there is!
While eighth place isn't the result we were hoping for before the weekend started, we proved in Portugal that we have the pace to challenge for the top positions and I'm sure that we have the speed to win an event soon.
That win might come in Argentina, which is where we go next – and I'm sure it will be a good event. It's another rough gravel round with spectacular stages, high altitudes and an enormous amount of spectators… and really good steaks! We did well there last year to take a podium position in third, and we'll be aiming to at least replicate that and challenge for top honours.
I feel that a podium finish is a realistic aim given the pace we have shown on recent events – and I'd very much like to be the person who comes away from Argentina as quickest of all.
Of course, it's points that are important for us, so I'll be looking to score as many as I can as we need a good score after our recent bad luck. I know that my championship hopes have taken a hit recently but winning the championship this year was never my target.
However, rest assured that I will win it in future!
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