Mads Ostberg knows that being quick out of the blocks could be key to a good result on next weekend's Rally de Espana, using the event's unique format to steal a march on his opponents.

Acknowledged as quick on gravel, the Norwegian has shown improvement each time he has competed on tarmac this season but, in Spain, with only day one predominantly on his preferred loose surface, he knows that a sharp start will be important.

"I like the type of gravel stages here," Ostberg confirmed, "I have some fond memories of competing here, both in dry conditions and in the wet, so I hope that I can at least be in the top three after the first leg.

"After that, I'll need to adjust as quickly as possible to rediscover my reflexes on tarmac. We'll have to do a full reset overnight and then wake up the next morning in 'tarmac mode'. We learned a lot during the earlier [tarmac] rounds in Germany and in France, so it's up to us to make the most of the experience we have acquired recently and the progress made with the team to keep moving in the right direction."

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Explaining that the key will be using the new Michelin tyres 'really well' and not overheating them, Ostberg believes that, if everything goes well, should be capable of getting a good result. This will be particularly true as a fairly significant portion of the first 'gravel' day is actually contested on tarmac, notably the middle section of the long Terra Alta stage

"Traditionally, big gaps can open up on these sections," Didier Clement, the DS3 WRC's chief operations engineer, noted, "The cars don't react the same way on tarmac roads and tend to be less responsive, so it's up to the driver to find the right pace so as to not overuse the tyres and keep as much grip as possible."

After Thursday's opening stage, Friday morning will see the serious action get underway with a first loop of three gravel stages, but it is at the end of the day that biggest race takes place as, all cars must be converted to their tarmac configuration during a 75-minute flexi-service.

"During the service period on Friday evening, eight mechanics will be hard at work for those 75 minutes," Clement continued, "A few days before the rally, our teams practice switching from one configuration to the other but, put simply, we only keep the body shell and the engine. We have to prepare the assignment of the various tasks very meticulously - everybody must know what they have to do."