Second in the FIA World Rally Championship’s premier support series last season, Mads Østberg has made the perfect start to putting that right this time around.
The Citroën Racing driver won WRC 2 at both Rallye Monte-Carlo and Rally Sweden to lay the perfect foundations for a successful season aboard a PH Sport-run C3 R5.
Østberg overcame an early puncture and benefited from his chief class rival, M-Sport runner Adrien Fourmaux, suffering two deflations of his own.
In more familiar surroundings, Østberg looked invincible in Sweden. Fastest on all but two stages, he led from SS2 until the finish. The cheerful Norwegian skipped the last rally in Mexico, preferring to chase long haul points in Japan later in the season.
Only Hyundai Motorsport N crews Nikolay Gryazin and Ole Christian Veiby have contested all three rallies so far. Russian driver Gryazin has been the pick of the pair with two podiums leaving him nine points down on Østberg.
He might have been even closer had it not been for stopping and changing a puncture after clipping a rock on the second run through the Nyckelvattnet test in Sweden. That unplanned wheel change cost him two places on the leaderboard and demoted him to sixth.
Team-mate Veiby followed Østberg home in second place in Torsby, having learned his lesson from chasing his more experienced countryman on round one.
Veiby was within touching distance of Mads ahead of Saturday’s penultimate Monte-Carlo test. A spin in that stage cost him any chance of a win and made his Sunday crash, when he knocked the right-rear wheel off, even more annoying.
Third place in Mexico keeps Veiby firmly in with a shot this season. Both Hyundais were, however, shown the way home by Toksport World Rally Team driver Pontus Tidemand.
The former Skoda factory driver and WRC 2 winner made his debut with the German-based team on his home round in Sweden and immediately found the Fabia’s sweet spot with third place. He backed that up with a faultless drive to win the class in México.
Fourmaux and top Brit Rhys Yates have both made solid starts to their maiden top support series campaigns.
The Frenchman recovered from his double deflations to finish second on the Monte and backed that up with fourth in Sweden. Yates matched that fourth in the French Alps and placed his Fiesta R5 fifth in Sweden.
The efforts of those two keeps M-Sport Ford World Rally Team second behind Hyundai Motorsport N in the manufacturers standings.
Tomorrow: WRC 3 แทงบอลออนไลน์
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