29 July 2013
Ostberg hoping for 'home' advantage in Finland
Mads Ostberg might be Norwegian rather than Finnish, but when it comes to the Iconic 1000 Lakes Rally Finland event he's hoping that's close enough to offer home advantage.
Qatar M-Sport's Mads Ostberg is looking forward to getting back to work after the WRC's mid-season break, and his excitement is only heightened by the fact that the event up next is the iconic Neste Oil Rally Finland.
Although Ostberg himself hails from neighbouring Norway, he's still hoping that's close enough when it comes to getting a little home advantage - and history backs him up, as the rally has traditionally favoured Scandinavians over its long and celebrated history.
"Finland is a very special event and there is nothing else like it on the calendar," he said. "For a driver, it's the speed and the jumps that make it.
"Whereas the other gravel rallies are quite tight and twisty with narrow roads, Finland has wide, open roads where you can really push the top-speeds," he explained. "We have quite a few rallies in Norway with similar characteristics, so hopefully that will be a bit of an advantage for us."
The rally will see him reunited in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC with his Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson, and the two have already been hard at work getting themselves ready for the challenge coming up, having just attended a two-day pre-event test in Finland.
“We had a really good test last week and both Jonas and I are feeling well prepared," he said. "I think we've made some big steps forward with the set-up and the car feels great.
"The most important thing in Finland is to be on the pace from the beginning, so this test should certainly have helped with that," he continued. "Of course it's not just the set-up that you need to be on top of. As a driver you need to be used to the speed, the jumps, the placing of the car, everything from the very first corner."
A revised rally route will see stages such as Torittu and Himos returned to the event, as well as some more familiar tests being run in the opposite direction. That will mean pace notes will need to be word-perfect on these somewhat unfamiliar roads, demanding total trust between driver and co-driver if they're to launch their cars over the daunting crests at full speed.
Without question the biggest challenge remains one of the most famous and notorious stages of the entire rallying year – Ouninpohja. Run twice on the rally's final day, the high-speed rollercoaster has become synonymous with Rally Finland, incorporating some 169 jumps over 33 kilometres.
Also competing at Rally Finland this weekend is Ostberg's Qatar M-Sport team mate Evgeny Novikov who will be with his co-driver Ilka Minor for the first time in Finland, while Qatar World Rally Team's Thierry Neuville will be partnered with fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul for the event.
Competing in the WRC2 category with M-Sport's latest Fiesta R5 challenger, Welshman Elfyn Evans will be hoping to build on a sensational sixth place finish on his debut with the Fiesta RS WRC in June as he's reunited with co-driver Daniel Barritt.
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