Mads Ostberg admits that he needs a strong result in Mexico next weekend to ensure he 'stays in touch' with Sebastien Ogier in the race for the World Rally Championship.
The Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team driver heads into the third round of the season sitting third in the championshop standings behind Ogier and Sebastien Loeb, the latter not competing on the event as part of his shortened schedule for the 2013 season.
Ostberg has competed in Mexico twice in the past, finishing fifth and fourth, and will hope to better that result when the action kicks off on the challenging, high altitude stages, with the Norwegian eager to improve on his past results and secure at least a podium finish.
“With Loeb not competing in Mexico we're in a good position in the championship – we just need to ensure that we stay in touch with Ogier,” the 25-year-old said. “He's been very strong on the first two rounds and I think we can expect the same from him next week. But I'm ready for the fight and looking forward to the rally. With this being the first gravel round of the season the field will be a lot closer and we should have some really good battles.
“This is an event where road position counts for a lot, so we'll be pushing from the beginning to make sure we have a good qualifying. You need to adapt to the conditions straight away. The altitude means that the car handles and reacts differently to the way it would on other gravel events, so you need to be on it from the very beginning.
“I'm really looking forward to what I'm sure will be an exciting battle next week. The podium is my goal and that's what we'll be fighting for.”
Team-mate Evgeny Novikov meanwhile is also hopeful of a strong result as he seeks to add to the two points he currently has after a ninth place finish in Sweden, with the youngster boosted by the announcement that he has been named as Russian driver of the year for 2012 – ahead of F1 racer Vitaly Petrov.
Novikov will also be keen to secure a strong result, given that co-driver Ilka Minor will be reading the notes on her 100th WRC event.
“I'm feeling really good ahead of this rally,” he said. “We had a good test – once we moved away from the snow – and learnt a lot about how to best set-up the car for the conditions. It's quite a tricky event with a lot of things you need to consider. Some of the stages are very long and narrow which means that you need to keep your concentration even more than usual. The altitude too means that the car has much less power which can affect the usual braking points for example.
“As always we will fight for a good result and I think this could be a really good event for us. I also want to congratulate Ilka on her 100th WRC event. She knows what it takes to win here and having her by my side can only help.”