With Kris Meeke’s departure, Citroen Racing gave Mads Ostberg more FIA World Rally Championship outings and the Norwegian has repaid the faith shown.
In the three rallies prior to Finland, Ostberg was consistent in his performance with two sixth place finishes and a fifth in his final run. His 2018 campaign would have ended if not for Meeke’s contract termination.
The French manufacturer opted to go with an experienced name as his replacement, resulting in more chances for Ostberg. The first rally after that, Ostberg finished second in Toyota’s home ground in Rally Finland.
The Norwegian showed good pace all-through the rally to win few stages to keep second. He did put in the pressure on Toyota’s Ott Tanak early on, but the Estonian fought back to take a healthy lead and win handsomely.
Ostberg’s fight was then with the other Toyota of Jari-Matti Latvala. The final day saw the Finn push the Norwegian to the limit, but he kept calm and secured his best result of the 2018 season with co-driver Torstein Eriksen.
In fact, it is first WRC podium since 2016 Rally Mexico, when he was driving the Ford Fiesta with M-Sport. It is also his first with Citroen since switching with the French manufacturer earlier this season.
“I would say it’s the most important thing I’ve done in my life,” he said after the rally. “To fight with Jari-Matti like that on the final day of Finland is really exciting. I really had to do my best and that final stage was probably one of the best I’ve ever done in my life.
“I’m really proud. It’s really emotional as well because I’ve been out [of WRC] for quite some time and the way back has been hard. I’ve had some good opportunities with Citroen. I’ve taken all the opportunities I’ve had and used them to the absolute best.
“Before the weekend I think we had a serious understanding in the team that fighting for fourth would be really amazing. We expected the Toyotas to be way in front of everyone. They have been testing something like 20 days for the event and we spent three days here.
“It’s really amazing to be able to fight with them. I think the Toyota sandwich is the best sandwich you can get in Finland.” Team principal Pierre Budar heaped praise on Ostberg’s performances as well, whom he thought will excel due to his experience of Finland.
Budar said their confidence were boosted as they could beat the current Top 2 teams M-Sport’s Ford and Hyundai by some distance and that their upgrade to the front axle geometry brought better results – much to the delight of the crew.
The team has more or less shifted its focus to 2019 already, but Ostberg expects more in the remaining four rallies he will compete in. As known, Sebastien Loeb will drive the Citroen C3 in Spain.
“We’ve done very rapid development with the car, but strong development as well,” he said. “I think we’ve been able to introduce some new ideas to the team. We realised before the rally that we have done major steps.
“On my second day of testing I informed the team this is the best car I’ve ever had for Finland. We have some improvements to do, we still know there are certain areas where we need to be better.”
With the results, Ostberg already moved ahead of his former teammate Meeke in the standings as the Norwegian has 48 points from the four rallies. Teammate Craig Breen’s puncture halted his progress as he finished eighth in the end.