M-Sport World Rally Team’s Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs will be competing on home soil – the FIA World Rally Championship ventures to the famous forests of Wales Rally GB.
The gravel speed tests might not be overly technical, but the conditions can make for an exceptionally challenging weekend. It is intensified by the fact that there will be no midday services.
One never knows what to expect in Wales – rain, fog and even snow not being unheard of. This year’s earlier date could even see a dry rally. But the crews must still give the stages the respect they deserve with a multitude of obstacles lying in wait.
With a wealth of experience at the British fixture, Mads Ostberg knows the Welsh forests better than most. The Norwegian is relishing a return to gravel. The Wales event is one of his favourites with similar terrain to that of his homeland.
Mads has contested the rally on 10 previous occasions. His best result was second overall when piloting the Fiesta RS WRC in 2011. Between them, Ostberg and co-driver Ola Floene can boast three podium finishes in Wales – putting them a cut above most and holding them in good stead for the challenges ahead.
Mads Ostberg of M-Sport: “I definitely feel at home in Wales”
Mads Ostberg said: “We’ve learnt a lot on the last few Tarmac rallies, but I must admit that it feels good to be going back to gravel. And to one of my favourite events on the calendar.”
“There is something special about Wales Rally GB and we really want to be back challenging for the podium. I’ve always enjoyed these stages and been competitive on them too. I’ve been on the podium twice before, and the aim is to be in a position to fight for those top positions again this year.”
“The stages really are fantastic. They’re so fast and smooth and you can get into a really good rhythm. They’re actually quite similar to some of the stages we find in Norway, so I definitely feel at home in Wales. The key is to feel comfortable and confident in the tricky conditions. That’s what we’ll be aiming to do.”
“The event is a little earlier this year so we could actually see a dry rally which would be amazing. I’ve done the rally in the dry once before and it was brilliant. But whatever the weather, I really don’t mind. I’m just looking forward to throwing the car into those fast gravel corners!”
Eric Camilli: “The most important thing is to finish the event”
In the sister Fiesta RS WRC, Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas have only contested the Welsh fixture on one previous occasion. They were quick to get to grips with the specialist roads. Leading the WRC 2 category, the pairing secured eight stage wins before a turbo issue denied a victory on the final stage.
Keen to end the season on a high, a clean rally is the target for Camilli. But the Frenchman will be keen to show pace if the opportunity arises.
“Wales Rally GB is a really special event for me, and it will be even more special this year as it’s the home rally for my team. They have been so supportive this season, and it would mean a lot to repay them with a good result.”
“We’ve only competed in Wales once before – in WRC 2 – but we were competitive from the start. This year will be completely different, but I’m looking forward to it.”
“The stages are really fast and flowing and even in the wet the grip levels can be surprisingly high. We’ll need to take some time to discover how a world rally car handles and reacts to the conditions, but we always want to do our maximum.”
“The most important thing is to finish the event. But if the feeling is there, it will be nice to push the limits and see how far we’ve come.”