M-Sport team boss Malcolm Wilson has set Mads Ostberg the task of dethroning the dominant Volkswagen Motorsport squad as he aims for a maiden WRC victory in Sweden.
Ostberg has returned to the British squad after a two-year spell with Citroen in the World Rally Championship and enjoyed a solid first outing in 2016 by equalling a career-best of fourth place at Rally Monte Carlo.
In preparation for the second round of the year at the all-snow event in Sweden, Ostberg will take on Norway's KNA Rally Finnskog a week before in an R5-specification Ford Fiesta. The event will give Ostberg vital time to reacquaint himself with the Ford challenger on icy and snowy conditions before Sweden which Wilson believes the Norwegian has a shot at victory.
"If he has a good test then he'll be in good shape for Sweden, and that's got to be one of the events where he can really challenge to win," Wilson said on wrc.com
. "He's nearly done it before and with our team in 2011 he only lost in the last stage so we know what he's capable of."
Indeed, Ostberg narrowly lost out on victory in Sweden five years ago by just 6.5s to Mikko Hirvonen when Ford dominated to a 1-2-3 finish. This year Ostberg and M-Sport Ford have a tricky task to halt Volkswagen's current supremacy in WRC, with a VW machine having won the past 10 consecutive WRC rounds, going back to Rally Argentina 2015.
Ostberg says he is aware of the arduous task to take down Sebastien Ogier and company but is confident M-Sport can put up a good fight on conditions which play to the Norwegian's strengths.
"We are getting very close to where we want to be, and the opportunity to drive at the Finnskog rally should make it even better," Ostberg said. “I'm yet to drive the new World Rally Car on snow, but I think it will be very competitive. If it is then I think we can be competitive as well. It's always difficult to take the battle to Volkswagen but for sure we will try."