M-Sport World Rally Team’s Éric Camilli delivered a stunning performance at Rally Italia Sardegna – piloting his Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta RS WRC to a historic first FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) stage win. Delivering a consistent string of highly impressive and competitive stage times, the Frenchman has truly demonstrated his potential.
Were it not for an unfortunate technical issue on Friday morning, the rookie – who was contesting only the 12th gravel rally of his career this weekend – would have been battling the World Champion for his first WRC podium, but made up for the disappointment in spectacular fashion. Making the most of their advantageous road position, he and co-driver Benjamin Veillas were the only crew to post a top-three stage time on each of Saturday morning’s stages and came tantalisingly close to securing their first stage win through the first pass of Monti di Ala’ (SS10) – an impressive achievement considering they had picked up a slow puncture towards the end of the stage. Posting another top-three time through the second pass of Monte Lerno (SS15), they proved their pace had been no fluke, but the best was yet to come. Embarking on the final day of competition, the roles were reversed and the Frenchmen found themselves with a disadvantage on the road when compared to that of the leaders. But they didn’t let that stand in their way. Drawing confidence from their Fiesta RS WRC, the pairing posted another top-three time through the first pass of Cala Flumini (SS17) and made history through the first pass of the Power Stage (SS18) – securing the first of what is sure to be many WRC stage victories. Climbing the standings to finish the rally in a strong sixth place overall, Camilli has shown remarkable progress over the past three events and will only improve as he continues to learn the art of his trade.
In the sister M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC, Mads Østberg was unable to restart the final day – a bitter blow when considering his speed through Sardinia’s abrasive gravel roads. With his issues from the previous rallies fully resolved, the Norwegian was back on pace and challenging for his third podium of the year having posted a stunning fastest time through the first pass of Monte Lerno (SS12). Reining in the World Champion, Østberg and co-driver Ola Fløene looked set to claim the final podium position on yesterday’s final speed test. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Clipping a rock after a crest 22 kilometres into the stage, they broke the front-right driveshaft. Determined to make it to the safety of the evening service, the pairing continued through the stage but the broken shaft caused terminal damage to the engine just three kilometres from the flying finish – bringing Østberg’s event to a premature end and robbing the Norwegian of valuable championship points. Despite the missed opportunity, Østberg was delighted to have been back where he belonged – challenging for the top position behind the wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC. With a better road positon for next month’s Rally Poland, he and Fløene will be keen to make amends.
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Éric Camilli (6th) said:
“It has been a fantastic weekend for us – maybe ‘fantastic’ doesn’t even give justice to how happy we are right now! I’ve only been rallying three years, mainly on Tarmac, and now we’re setting fastest WRC times on gravel. It really is incredible and we’re so excited about this performance. The progress that we have made is all down to experience – it’s as simple as that. Experience is the key to success. The more experience you have, the better you understand your tyres, the set-up of the car, the driving, the pacenotes, everything. I need to say a big thank you to the team, and my engineer Chris and of course Malcolm. They believed in me from the very beginning and we could not have achieved this without their help and support. Now, it’s important for us to keep progressing and keep developing in the same way. In Poland I think we will be a little bit slower as it will be our very first time there, but after that we have some more events that I am familiar with and even an event that will be completely new to everyone so let’s see what we can do there!”
Mads Østberg (DNF) said:
« We hit a rock over a crest and that broke the front-right driveshaft [on SS15]. We managed to continue with rear-wheel drive, but right before the finish the broken shaft caused some damage to the engine and we had to stop completely and park up. It’s really disappointing as we were on course to fight for a podium that the whole team really deserved. We resolved the issues that we had on the previous events and had a car that worked perfectly. We were in a position to fight for the top times and really wanted to take the fight with Seb [Ogier] down to the very last stage. “Unfortunately, this is the game that we are in. The roads are very rough here, and these things can happen. But one thing is for sure, we will be back fighting in Poland.”
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“It’s hard not to think about what could have been this weekend as both Mads and Eric had the pace to challenge for the podium. It’s been something of a missed opportunity for us, but I have to admit, Éric’s performance really has made up for the initial disappointment! I have been extremely impressed with him. He hasn’t put a foot wrong all weekend. He’s shown consistent, competitive speed and his stage victory this morning was exceptional and fully deserved. I’m sure it will be the first of many. We knew he was capable of this kind of performance, but we never expected it to come so soon. He has bounced back brilliantly and the level of progression over the last three events is way beyond anything I have ever witnessed before. He has the potential to go very far indeed.”
Press release M-Sport]]>