M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mads Østberg and Eric Camilli brought their Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRCs home in fifth and eighth places respectively at this weekend’s Rally Argentina.
As one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s most consistent drivers, Østberg is one of only two competitors to have finished inside the top-five at every event this year. Proving his consistency once again, he has been rewarded with solid points and a strong championship position.
Driving well and pushing hard through the tricky Argentine stages, he and co-driver Ola Fløene were pleased with their performance but both they and the team had expected more from the event.
Having hoped to challenge for a third successive podium, the Norwegian was unable to match the speed of his rivals. Struggling to produce the speed he and the Fiesta are capable of, the team will work with him to understand the issues and find a solution.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, it was mission accomplished for Camilli on what is only the ninth gravel rally of his career. Under strict instruction to complete all of the stages, he and co-driver Benjamin Veillas adopted a cautious approach to gain maximum experience from the difficult speed tests.
Improving his pace over the second pass, Camilli had the measure of his vastly more experienced team mate through three separate stages and set an impressive sixth fastest time when experiencing the El Condor stage (SS16) for the very first time.
Most importantly however, the Frenchman’s eighth-place finish means that he heads to Europe on a high – ready to continue his development behind the wheel of the top-specification Fiesta.
Elsewhere in the WRC 2 category, luck was not on Elfyn Evans side having suffered an electrical issue as well as three separate punctures.
When having a clean-run through the stages, he and co-driver Craig Parry were in a league of their own and regularly half a minute faster than their nearest rivals. Winning all but four of the stages they contested, it’s clear that the pairing had the pace to secure victory this weekend.
Bringing their Ford Fiesta R5 Evo home in fourth place, the Welshmen will be looking to make a return to winning ways when they make their next WRC 2 outing in Portugal.
Mads Østberg (5th) said: “I think that we’ve been driving well and we pushed really hard on some of the stages. It’s fair to say that we were all hoping for more, so we have some work to do to understand why the times aren’t there.”
Éric Camilli (8th) said: “We took everything step-by-step and I think that we improved a lot and also learnt a lot along the way. This is a very difficult event and we need to work hard to improve our pace on these kinds of stages. We can do more, but I need to learn where it is safe to push and where I need to drive more carefully.
“Now I’m really looking forward to going back to Europe and to experiencing some events that I know. Of course it will not be easy as a lot of things are still quite new to us, but everything is getting better and better and we are looking forward.”
Elfyn Evans (4th WRC 2 / Rally 2) said: “It was disappointing to have had an issue on the first day, but it was just down to one of those things. When we had a clean run the speed was good and I think it was more than enough to win the rally.
“Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on our side. We had a few punctures but to get fourth off the back of a bad weekend is pretty good and we’ll be looking to get back to winning ways in Portugal.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “Having hoped to be challenging for a third successive podium, it’s been a disappointing weekend for us. We know that Mads is capable of more and, if you look at the times of Ott [Tänak], we know that the car is too. Mads is driving well, but the times aren’t there so we need to understand his issues and work to find a solution before Portugal.
“Eric did exactly what was asked of him this weekend and he can return to Europe in a positive frame of mind. We need to remember that this is still only the ninth gravel rally of his career and he set some very encouraging times – especially through the fog on El Condor which is something that he has never experienced before. He’s on the right track, and I’m confident he can show further progress once we return to Europe.
“It seems as though Elfyn has had a season’s worth of bad luck this weekend so hopefully he’ll be able to get back to winning ways in Portugal. When he had a clean run, he had more than enough speed to win the rally. He’s scored some solid points with a fourth-placed finish and I’m sure he’ll be out to impress at the next event.”