In Mads Ostberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team man reflects on Rallye de France where he maintained his points scoring run in the 2013 World Rally Championship...

Hi all,

After the long trip to Australia, we were back on European soil for Rallye de France, which was the eleventh round of the season. Yet again I was able to pick up points with an eighth place finish, but if I'm being honest, it was an event that left me with mixed feelings.

There were positives for us to focus on from the weekend and we really upped our performance on tarmac, which was really encouraging. At the same time though, it was disappointing to fall down the order on the final day when I went off on SS18 and lost time.

It's hard to say if I think eighth was a good result, simply because our speed showed we were capable of more. Had it not been for the time we lost with that off, we'd have finished at least sixth, which would obviously have been a result that I'd have preferred. However, if you look behind the end result and look at it in terms of our performance - and the way that my confidence, style and speed improved throughout the weekend - then I can be happy.

As usual, the event started with Shakedown but then came the Power Stage, where we were eleventh fastest.

We hadn't had a lot of testing, so Shakedown was all about getting seat time in the car and finding the optimum set-up for what was to come. The Power Stage that followed was something I never really got to grips with, although I don't know why. I wasn't really concerned with our pace though, and I knew that once we got into the 'proper' stages, we would climb up the order, which is what we did.

The first day proper was a good day for me. This event was all about focusing on my own rally and increasing my performance step-by-step. Once I got confident at a certain level, I would increase the speed and it worked well for us and my confidence was growing with every stage.

On Saturday, we found more pace and were able to move up a place to eighth. That isn't normally where I would expect to be, but when I view it as my part of my learning curve, it was all continued progress.

Sunday morning again saw me making up places on the leaderboard and we were sixth heading into SS18. Unfortunately we became stuck at a junction and lost a lot of time, which undid the good work we'd done to that point. Of course it was disappointing, but these things happen sometimes and you just have to look for the positives.

The conditions on that final day were really slippery because of the rain, and because of the amount of mud that had been dragged onto the stages. Even Sebastien Loeb fell foul of the conditions, which says a lot! While it was disappointing to see Seb fail to finish his last event in the WRC, it was good me for to be able to manage conditions that had caught out someone with his expertise.

It was clear to see over the course of the weekend how good the Fiesta RS WRC is on tarmac because of the way Thierry [Neuville - my team-mate] was able to challenge for victory. For me, it just took a while to perfect the set-up, but we were able to build on it during the event.

France was a good event to be part of and the atmosphere in Alsace is always amazing. There are so many enthusiastic fans out on the stages and they're not just there to cheer on the two Sebs either. There is always a lot of support for all the drivers.

We now have just two events left this season and I'll admit that the season finale in Wales is the one I am looking forward to the most as I have a good track record there and know the stages well, so I think we can challenge for a really good result.

Before then is Spain, which is an event I also like. As a mixed surface event, it is a real challenge but it also very interesting. Obviously there is a lot of work for the mechanics to do as they have to change the car from asphalt to gravel spec in a limited time frame, but the drivers also have to adapt quickly as well. It'll make it interesting on Sunday as we see how the tarmac specialists adapt!

The challenge behind the wheel comes from having to adapt your style quickly and efficiently. The way you tackle a tarmac stage is completely different to how you would approach a gravel one, so you need to be in the right 'mode' from the off. You also have to make sure the set-up is right; there are so many factors to consider.

Before the event, we will have a full day of testing, so hopefully we can find a good set-up for the car and then we will be well prepared for what is to come.

My best finish in Spain is fourth last year, and obviously I'd like to improve on that and be fighting for a place on the podium. However, if we can take a top five result, then I think it would be a good one for us.

Mads Ostberg

To keep tabs on the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team's progress in 2013, simply follow this link: www.qatarmsportwrt.com

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