ANITA TÓTH 2021.02.25 16:43

Rally: world champion on board – Östberg wants victory at the Hungarian Rally Championship

There has been little more exciting news about Hungarian rally than WRC2 champion Mads Östberg's arrival to the Hungarian series, especially since he doesn't hide the fact he is here to win.

Norway’s Mads Östberg (right) was delighted with the WRC2 title with his co-driver (Photo: Citroën Rally Team Hungary)

 

– One of the biggest surprises is that you compete in the Hungarian Rally Championship this season. How did you end up here?
– I ended up here by accident, actually, told Nemzeti Sport Mads Östberg, WRC2 defending champion, Citroën Rally Team Hungary's driver. – I've been to Hungary once, but didn't compete here, just participated in a test drive which I enjoyed very much. The idea came from Tamás Tagai and team leader György Balkányi, and I liked it immediately because I'm a rally driver and I take every opportunity to get in a rally car. It's an additional challenge that I don't know the Hungarian rally courses at all.

– Not even Rally Hungary's courses? The test which you traveled here for was before the Hungarian round of the European Championship.
– You're right. I checked out some of those courses, and I cannot wait to rally on them because I liked them.

THE GOAL IS THE HUNGARIAN CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE

Tamás Tagai, head of TRT that puts Östberg's car together: – We got in touch with Mads Östberg last year when he was working as a mentor for our team member Marco Bulacia at the World Championship. When we started thinking about racers who could win the Championship with Citroën, a few names came up including Östberg too. Then, when it became clear that the WRC2 champion could put the Hungarian Championship into his schedule, there were no questions left. The goal is obviously to win the Hungarian title – the driver and the car are suitable for it, and our team will do everything to complete the season without technical problems.

– Is the goal a victory?
– I'll have the necessary humility for the challenge because not only did I check out the courses, but I also saw the many great competitors in the Hungarian field. However, it's a fact that I'm competing to try to win. I'm expecting a big battle, because I have looked up that the Hungarian Championship has been very fierce in recent years. The courses are in favor of the Hungarian top racers whereas probably the international experience and the many kilometers in my hands and legs are in my favor.

– Can you say a few things words about the car? Is Citroën C3 Rally2 suitable for victory?
– If it was suitable for the World Championship, then it shouldn't be an issue at the Hungarian Championship either. Of course, we need to build our strategy step by step using previous experiences that we've gathered. One thing for sure is that I'll do everything I can to prove that Citroën is one of the best racing cars in the Hungarian field as well.

– Will you have a longer test session before the Championship starts?
– We planned a test before the season opening, and I know it's not the most thorough preparation, but that's how we were able to put the program together. After the Salgó Rallye, however, I'll have the opportunity to get to know the Hungarian locations and courses.

– A brand new competition event will debut at the World Championship this weekend. Will you be in Finland where the rally takes place on snow?
– I will be there but won't compete. I'm helping Tamás Tagai to ease team member Michal Solowow's job by giving him my best advice possible.

Who would you guess as the race winner?
– On snowy courses, northern drivers tend to be very fast, especially the Finnish, so they have a good change. At the same time, if I had to bet, I'd put my money on Ott Tänakra.

ÖSTBERG, THE GAUGE

Mads Östberg will be the gauge at the Hungarian Championship to whom the top drivers can measure themselves to get an idea where they would/will be on international level. Though the final result in still not official, Hungarian defending champion András Hadik is happy for his arrival, but he doesn't know what to expect: “At the Hungarian round of the European Championship we can see that foreign top racers are not afraid of not knowing the courses because they've been competing on unfamiliar location for their whole life. Mads Östberg will be a great gauge, but we'll not compete with our hands up.”

Frigyes Turán didn't compete with Östberg in the same category at the World Championship, so they have a good relationship: “he's a nice, funny guy, and he's really fast, so he'll challenge us. I hope we can nettle him a couple times.”

Ferenc Vincze as the absolute champion believes the world champion's arrival is good for the Hungarian Championship: “Östberg could be a driving force as there will be a role model who dictates the pace so we can accelerate also. From a spectator's point of view, it's definitely good that he's joining us. On gravel he'll be untouchable, but we might have a chance against him on tarmac.”

Last year's fourth could-be champion, Ádám Velenczei doesn't prepare with hands up either: “Local knowledge is in our favor while Östberg has thousands of kilometers in racing, but I promise won't throw in the towel. If we didn't have a positive attitude, there wouldn't be a point participating.”

Translated by Vanda Orosz

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