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Ostberg's confidence restored by Finland podium
5 August 2013
Qatar M-Sport WRT's Mads Ostberg revealed that his confidence had been at an all time low over the five-week summer break between WRC events, and that his strong showing in Rally Finland was just the tonic he needed - even if a late scare on Saturday cost him the chance of second place at the end.
Ostberg had been challenging Sebastien Ogier for the outright race lead until well into day 2, when he suffered a deflated left front tyre during SS14 stemming from a broken rim on his Ford Fiesta RS.
"Unbelievable," he said afterwards, still unsure about exactly where or how the damage had happened during the stage. "It's just a lottery now, with ruts everywhere.
"It's a pity to finish the day while losing time because of a puncture especially as I don't know how it occurred," he continued. "I just felt I was losing some pressure in the tyre and I was thus obliged to slow down."
The Norwegian knew that this was the end of his hopes of challenging for the race win, barring Ogier suffering from a mishap of his own at the front. "When you see how difficult it is to catch up one or two seconds I think I won't be able to catch up but I will push until the end to keep some pressure on Ogier."
But as the race went into the final day, Ostberg's attention was turned to a thrilling knife-edge battle for second place with his M-Sport team mate Thierry Neuville that lasted through to the penultimate stage, the second and final run of the event through the iconic 33km Ouninpohja.
"It's a very fast section at the end of the stage - fast and narrow: slightly uphill braking to a third-gear right," explained Ostberg of what happened next. "I braked and turned and when I got back on the throttle I saw a massive rock on the line, actually it was further out than the line.
"I knew if I hit that then definitely it would end the rally, but if I go around it then something could also probably happen," he continued. "I tried to go around it and for a moment I thought I would pass and continue. But I hit something on the exit and we spin for 180 degrees."
That cost Ostberg 20 seconds on Neuville, and with only one final power stage remaining it meant that the order of the podium positions was effectively decided. "I understand immediately that second is not possible and from then on it was all about hoping the car was okay and that we could get to the end."
It was somewhat ironic that Ostberg should have met with misfortune on Ouninpohja, given that he'd make the decision to play it safe and get to the finish and leave Neuville to take the riskier strategy.
"I just wanted to focus on ourselves and only drive as fast as I can," he insisted. "I didn't want to go to the maximum, I needed to be at the end of the rally. We decided to go maximum inside my comfortable level and more than that I wouldn't do; if he was faster then he was faster and he was - I'm happy with third."
And Ostberg explained that he'd arrived in Finland feeling rather low and lacking in confidence.
"I definitely think this was a good weekend after such a difficult first half of the season," he said. "My confidence was zero and it was difficult to know how to turn this around when so many different things were going on.
"With the break, I was able to understand what we needed to work on," he continued. "I was really looking forward to Finland, even if the confidence was not very high. We saw early on the speed was quite good, then we slowly tried to get the confidence back, even if the speed didn't change much.
"This has turned it around - doing a rally with no problems is a big step," he added. "The car was really good this weekend. Okay we had some punctures, but anyway almost everything has worked really well. It's nice for the confidence that we have the speed and have been fastest on many stages.
"We have been able to fight for the top positions and I'm really looking forward to having my confidence back." he said. "It feels better at the end of the rally and it will be easier to start a rally again after this weekend."
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