Østberg targets Breen Sanremo duel as WRC2 hopes fade

With no WRC2 deal on the horizon, Østberg is turning to one-off rallies to showcase his availability


Mads Østberg has targeted beating M-Sport Ford team leader Craig Breen at this week’s Rally Sanremo as he looks to further demonstrate his worthiness of a full-time return to the World Rally Championship.

The Norwegian dominated last week’s Rally of Nations Guanajuato, winning 13 of the 15 stages run on the León-based event in a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo.

Though Norway missed out on the Nations’ title due to Eyvind Brynildsen’s retirement, the WRC2 champion had achieved a key individual goal: Beat Breen’s M-Sport Ford team-mate Adrien Fourmaux, even with a puncture on the final stage costing him close to two minutes.

Having beaten one of the current factory WRC drivers last weekend, Østberg’s hoping to make it two in a row.

“This weekend I will go to Sanremo and I will meet Craig Breen, who is a WRC driver,” Østberg told DirtFish.

“Of course, he has done the rally three times, I have never done it. But I will try to give him a fight.

“I want to show what I can do and I think doing these kind of single events is also a good way to show my performance, especially when there are WRC drivers there.

“I can fight with them and it means I still have something to do there.”

While Østberg had won almost every stage in Mexico, it was the margin of victory on those stages that he felt was the most important indicator of his performance.

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Østberg added: “With Adrien here, who is a WRC driver in the Ford, I think we really beat him by a lot on every stage, by almost a second per kilometer through the whole rally. So it’s been a very good rally for us and it was important for me to show my pace against him as well.

“We still have the pace and we can see every rally we do we can win it, even against WRC drivers. So I hope that I can show someone that we deserve a drive and maybe we will see in the future.”

Østberg’s hopes of reclaiming the WRC2 title he lost to Andreas Mikkelsen look slim at present, with no deal in place with Citroën Racing. But his deal in the Hungarian national series remains, where his 2022 campaign started with a win on the Salgó Rally the weekend before Rally of Nations.

“For the moment, we are focused on the Hungarian championship,” he said. “We will do some events here or there and maybe we will do some ERC or maybe a single WRC event, but it doesn’t look to be a full season.”

Sanremo gets underway on Friday afternoon and finishes on Saturday evening. Østberg will run a Citroën C3 Rally2 while Breen – who has won the event for the previous two years – will utilize the latest version of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 MkII for the first time.

Words:Rob Hansford, Colin Clark

Photography:Stellantis, José Raúl Almeida