Mads Ostberg has predicted that road cleaning could play a crucial role in determining the winner of the Acropolis Rally this weekend, the seventh round in the 2011 WRC.
Ostberg had two consecutive fifth place WRC finishes last month in Sardinia and Argentina and he is determined to try and push the top factory drivers that little bit more this time out in his M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta.
Since the trip to South America, the 23-year-old has taken in the fifth round of the Norwegian Rally Championship, finishing runner-up to maintain his position at the head of the NRC standings. He will now switch back from the Fiesta S2000 to the Fiesta RS WRC and with two runs in Greece already under his belt - finishing 7th in 2009 - he should be a contender for another top-five.
“If you want to be in with a chance to finish on the podium in Greece then I think you must push, but the roads are incredibly rough so there's always the risk of damaging the car. I think we'll see how it goes on the first stage and adjust our pace to the circumstances,” he replied when asked how he will tackle the event.
“This year we will repeat only one of the first six stages on the Friday so the cleaning effect is going to be a very important factor. Fortunately our start position is not as bad as some of the others so we'll see how that goes.
“Since Argentina, I've competed in the NRC in the Ford Fiesta S2000 – and even though the stages are very different to what we will experience in Greece, it's always good preparation [to compete] before a WRC event – especially as I am looking to push the top five some more than I did in South America.”
Matt Wilson meanwhile will be the other driver nominated to score manufacturers' points in Greece for the M-Sport Stobart Ford squad. The Englishman has finished in the points in every event this season – bar Mexico – and he will want to maintain that run this weekend. To date his best result in Greece was a sixth place in 2008.
“Greece usually ends up as one of the hottest rallies of the year but Scott [Martin – my co-driver] and I are aware of this and should hopefully be prepared for it. I've been working hard on my fitness recently as it's something that is really important for an event which is both physically and mentally demanding on the body,” Matt continued.
“There is little doubt that Greece is one of the most difficult events in the calendar, it'll probably prove to be the most demanding rally that the Ford Fiesta RS WRC has encountered but I am certain that the car and Michelin tyres will cope.
“We took some really big knocks in Argentina with rocks that had been dragged onto the road and we didn't have any major issues so hopefully this will be the case this week too.”