Østberg debuts with Fiesta WRC at Rally Sweden

Mads Østberg will run his own independent team in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship. The team is a joint operation with Martin Prokop’s Jipocar World Rally Team, and Østberg will start the season at Rally Sweden with a Ford Fiesta WRC entered by M-Sport.

“Now I am feeling optimistic,” said Østberg. “Things have happened in a very short time, M-Sport managed to deliver a car last week and I got two very good days of testing in Sweden Saturday and Sunday. Nobody should doubt that I'm still hungry as a rally competitor, and I will drive for top positions this season.”

The plan for the team is to run one car for Østberg in Sweden, and then in Mexico for Prokop. Later in the season the team will run two Fiestas in the championship for both drivers.

New rules for 2017 have made the cars both stronger and faster. Engine output has risen by 60 bhp and the cars have also been modified extensively with regards to aerodynamics.

“How much faster we will drive on the stages is difficult to calculate,” said the Norwegian, “but I can tell you that these new cars are seriously fast machines! We had 250 kms of testing in Sweden last weekend and I really enjoyed driving the Fiesta. I think I have found a good base set-up, but the car is so much faster than the old Fiesta that the biggest challenge is to adapt to the extra speed and braking into corners.”

Even more important, according to Østberg, will be the new team organisation and the social and sporting environment he has missed since he ran his own team five years ago. Onebet Jipocar World Rally Team will have a hand-picked and compact staff of 14 – cook and physio included – when the team is running one car.

“The team is going to be easily managed and flexible, and my people are not only highly competent but also extremely dedicated to work with me for the best possible results,” added Østberg. “I like to have a good and personal relationship with the members of my team, and after the test in Sweden I really feel a positive buzz and friendly faces all around. If we can keep that positive feeling and also find the right set-ups for the car under all different conditions, I will be able to perform to the best of my abilities.”

Its eleven years since Østberg debuted in the World Rally Championship and he will make his WRC-start number 104 in Rally Sweden this week. As co-driver for 2017 Østberg has kept Ola Fløene (47) who himself has done 79 WRC-rallies. This makes the team one of the most experienced in the WRC this season.

Østberg’s best result in Sweden came in 2011 when he shocked the establishment by taking the lead in the rally and also keeping it until the last day. In the end he was beaten by only 6.5 seconds to Mikko Hirvonen.

“Rally Sweden is definitely one of my favourite rallies,” said the Norwegian. “With the feeling I have for the new car after the test I am really looking forward to show that I'm still able to stay with the fastest guys.”

Image courtesy of Andrea Mickovâ.