Eric Camilli had a “real confidence boost” on Rally de Portugal last weekend when he brought his car home in a career-best fifth place.
Camilli has had a difficult start to his rookie season, but after finishing eighth in Argentina last month, built on that further in Portugal, posting 15 top-ten times in his M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, including going third quickest on Saturday in SS10.
He also managed to hold off the recovering Jari-Matti Latvala on Sunday, despite a late scare, when he spun in the final test due to a handbrake problem. The two were split by just 5.3secs at the end.
“It's been a great weekend and a real confidence boost. We set some good times and had a really good feeling with the car all weekend,” said Camilli.
“We've taken a big step in so many areas. We've learnt how to better set-up the car, how to tackle the ruts on the second pass and we've also been making a lot of improvements to our pacenotes over the last couple of rallies. To be honest, I didn't expect the improvement to be so big so fast. That was a really nice surprise but we have been working really hard so it's good to see.
“Of course we still have a lot more to learn, so we will keep working and keep trying to improve with each new rally.”
M-Sport team principal Malcolm Wilson was delighted to see the Frenchman do so well: “It's great to see Eric performing so strongly – especially when you consider the start to the season he has had and how much pressure he has been under. He's shown the potential that we felt he had when we took him on board and his performance this weekend has brought a real enthusiasm back to the team.”
Meanwhile, team-mate Mads Ostberg finished seventh after losing over 3 minutes on Saturday with two broken driveshafts that left him with front-wheel drive only.
“We had a problem with the rear driveshaft on the second stage [on Saturday, SS11] and lost the drive on the rear. Then on the last stage [of the morning, SS12] we lost a further two minutes carrying the problem,” he reflected.
“Still it was quite enjoyable on Sunday. The better start position has helped a lot and we've been able to get a lot closer to where we should be. We tried to drive well and have a good rhythm and I think we succeeded with that,” he concluded.