In Mads Ostberg's latest exclusive column on Crash.net, the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team man reflects on Rally de Espana and a confidence boosting fun final day...
So that's the penultimate round of the season done and dust and while I would like to have finished higher than sixth on the mixed-surface Rally de Espana, the event went pretty well. I enjoyed the last few stages on the Saturday on the tarmac – it was much better than earlier in the day – and the final day on gravel was great. I had really good fun driving my Qatar M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC car.
My preparations for Spain went well but despite that I have to admit I did find it difficult to get into the right rhythm on the opening three night tests on Friday and as a result the speed could have been better. Those opening three tests were tough – it is challenging to drive in the dark and it is not something we do often. However, I must say driving in the dust with the sun coming through on Sunday morning was a lot worse! At some points you couldn't see anything...
We started the second day eighth overall and while the first couple of tests were difficult, we finally found a set-up that worked and that allowed us to do some fine tuning on the car. It worked and I got into the right rhythm. Indeed I do believe we were actually getting close to Sebastien Ogier's pace on some split sections – and he is of course the 'man of the moment'.
On the final day, we swapped tarmac tests for gravel, and it was very positive. I posted some strong times - three second quickest times and two third quickest times – and that is a big boost for my confidence now heading into Wales Rally GB. As I said earlier, it was really fun on the final day and I didn't push that much either, as I was too far behind, and it was not worth risking anything.
In fact, in that respect actually it was a perfect event as we didn't have any moments. The biggest scare was probably before the event when we went on one of the rollercaster rides in Salou - that was fun, but very scary!
Overall then, while the result - P6 - wasn't quite what I wanted, the event itself was very good. But then Spain is always a success. This time we even had fantastic weather, it was so nice and warm the whole week. The atmosphere is special too, and since it is easy to travel to Salou from Norway, there are always a lot of Norwegians there – and that is good for me as there is then lots of support.
There's just one round left now - the season has gone so quickly - and Rally GB is one of my favourite events. I have a good record there and have always enjoyed driving there.
This will be my eighth WRGB and hopefully the date - the event is back to its usual November slot this season - will bring the 'normal' Welsh weather, which makes the stages muddy, slippery and foggy. I enjoy that.
Rally GB is always special and that is primarily due to the nature of the stages and of course the quickly changing weather.
We've got a bit of testing lined-up before – one-day at Greystoke – and we will use that to get back into proper gravel mode.
I really want a podium in Wales – and preferably the top one!
That's all for now...Mads Ostberg
PS. Everyone keeps asking about next year at the moment. Nothing is decided yet, but you can be sure I am working hard to be back and doing all the events again in 2014.
To keep tabs on the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team's progress in 2013, simply follow this link: www.qatarmsportwrt.com