Defending WRC2 Champion Mads Østberg fears he “probably has done some mistakes on the development” of the Citroën C3 Rally2, and is frustrated that issues – particularly with the brakes – keep recurring.
Last weekend’s Rally Estonia was a trying event for Østberg and co-driver Torstein Eriksen. The pace from the pair was strong – they led after the first morning and won 10 of the event’s 24 stages in class – but were dogged by a variety of mechanical dramas.
On Friday afternoon the intercom started playing up while Østberg also reported a suspension issue. He then got a puncture and a 10-second penalty for jumping the start of a stage, which dumped him down to third behind Andreas Mikkelsen and Nikolay Gryazin.
Although he did climb up to second, Saturday didn’t go much better as he admitted the rally is “not under my control”, indicating that his C3 was fine on some stages but undriveable on others.
It led Østberg to admit at midday service that he may have made some errors with the development of the car.
“When the grip is quite constant, we can manage quite well, but we do struggle with some issues on the new car where I have to be honest and say that I probably have done some mistakes on the development of the car and I can feel that now,” he said.
“I could feel it already in Portugal to be honest, so I think we just have to try to understand and probably turn our heads around to sort this as quickly as possible.”
Asked what area of the car was troubling him, Østberg said: “On the differential side, so I struggle a lot when the grip is changing.
“I try to drive as fast as I can all the time, and to me I’m driving to the limit of the car all the time, and when we have grip we are faster than anyone, and on other stages when it’s changing around, for sure we are losing a lot of time. Much more than normal. And it feels the same to me.
“I’m disappointed with that, but we tried to do our best.”
Saturday afternoon was then plagued by another flat tire before on Sunday, the final day, brake issues began to manifest themselves.
“It’s been some real battles for sure, I had to do a brake pipe again today, I’m sorry you weren’t there to see it but I’ve had some practice now so it was a little bit faster,” Østberg told DirtFish, referencing the brake pipe fix he made on a road section in Sardinia which DirtFish exclusively filmed.
Despite the light-hearted nature, Østberg was in no joking mood though.
“I don’t know how much I should say about it to be honest but it’s not something new, which we have been trying to monitor for a very, very long time,” he said when asked about his brake issues.
“And I’m a little bit tired of it.
“So maybe I’m not staying so much quiet anymore because it’s related to the calipers basically, and we don’t know why but I lose suddenly completely the brake pedal, and it changes completely the brake balance and the car is completely uncontrollable.
“I’ve had so many times through the weekend where I tried to brake for the corner and out of nowhere the pedal just goes. In many ways we should be happy to be here because if it wasn’t for these really, really deep ruts in some of the corners for sure there would be no Østberg at the end.
“I’ve been pushing to solve this issue for a long, long time and we have been doing small step, step, step for a long, long time as well but it’s a bit annoying that it’s coming back,” Østberg continued.
“In Sardinia we didn’t have this problem, so it’s not related to heat which many people can think, but I don’t know [what it’s related to] to be honest. We have to work on it.”
Strong words indeed, and they got stronger.
Greece is the next one on the calendar but I will not go there if we don’t solve these issuesMads Østberg
Asked what his next event in WRC2 will be, Østberg replied: “Greece is the next one on the calendar but I will not go there if we don’t solve these issues.”
The pace was the saving grace from the weekend, and Østberg was able to see that positive.
“I’m quite happy with our pace and I think we lead the pace for the majority of the rally and we are very proud of that,” he said.
“And again I think we take so much beating throughout the weekend and it’s so easy to be down and to stay down. I admit that I go a bit down after the incidents but I’m able to turn around quite quickly and get back up to pace, and I think we have done a very good weekend.”
Østberg eventually finished second in class, 16.7 seconds down on Mikkelsen, and earned a WRC point. He now trials his Norwegian rival by 11 points in WRC2, but has only started four of his seven allotted rounds while Mikkelsen has racked up five scores.