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GP Week : Issue 119
Come and meet the next, or maybe the next but one, world rally champion. 23 year-old Mads Ostberg has been rallying World Rally Cars for the past five years but finally he has the chance to drive a state-of-the- art car, a Ford Fiesta WRC, and has found himself battling the top drivers of the world on even terms. The season opened with Sweden where Mads led the rally itself for nearly half the event and took second place, in any case a remarkable result for a non-professional, ‘paying’ rally driver, even if this was an event where a Norwegian driver would have found himself very much at home. And as the season progressed, he has kept on proving his talents. In the ensuring five WRC events to date, he has finished in fifth place three times, behind only the works Ford and Citroen drivers or the former world champion Petter Solberg – on two of these occasions (Mexico and Argentina) it was only the first time he had competed on these rallies. On the other two occasions he was let down by the same failure, the transmission casing, which shattered as the car left the start line of a stage. Mads is already in his tenth year of active rally competition. He started rallying as a co-driver for his father Morten in October 2001, two days after his 14th birthday, and continued doing this off and on for the next three seasons. “I did my first rally as a driver in June 2004, at the age of 16, in the ‘Education’ class in Sweden with an Opel Ascona. I did three rallies in the Opel, which was entered in a class for completely standard cars, and then I drove a modified Volvo, which was a lot quicker than the Opel as it had a 2.3 litre engine. I must have done seven or eight rallies over a couple of years under the Swedish Education system. Father Morten has masterminded Mads’ career. He is a businessman based at Moss, on the east side of the Oslo fjord. He is head of a family NDS computer company, which provides packages of Microsoft applications, starting with consultancy, delivering hardware and products in support, and after-supply service. Morten started this company when he was 23 years-old, the current age of Mads, and had little chance to take up rallying seriously until 1990. His enthusiasm led to the formation of the family owned Adapta Motorsport business – slogan ‘We adapt to anything!’. The Adapta Motorsport business is located in the same building as NDS. For a long time the Ostbergs had close connections with Prodrive and Subaru, in whose cars Mads based his formative rallying years. Mads: “I did not have the chance to do much actual rallying until I was 18, but all the time I was allowed to do some runs in my father's rally car when he was testing his own car. The first time father allowed metogoflatoutinarallycarwaswhen I was 16. The first time I rallied a World Rally Car was for some events at the end of 2005 just after my eighteenth birthday. This was at Lausitz in Germany when we were leading the champion Mathias Kahle before we had trouble with the engine and the gearbox. “ Then we did some events in Norway in both an Impreza S7 and an S9 cars and this led up to entering the Swedish in 2006 which was when our world championship activities began.” Mads has endless memories of WRC rallying in the past five seasons of world championship rallying, 2006 to 2010: “ The first time I scored a fastest stage time was in Sweden in 2007 on the Hagfors stage. Then the first time I finished in the championship points was in Finland in 2007, even after we had to disconnect the propshaft and finish the rally in two- wheel-drive and just keeping in front of Guy Wilks.” 2009 was a difficult year when the Adapta team tried to continue Prodrive's efforts in making sense of the new model S14 car. Despite having to SupeRally with a suspension problem which incurred the usual 10 minute penalty, Mads finished seventh. That was in Sardinia. “ Take away those 10 minutes we lost and we would have finished fifth, which would have been our best ever result. That was so disappointing, especially when we later discovered everything went wrong because a securing pin had been inserted the wrong way round.” In those five seasons, always as a completely private entry, Mads gained Drivers' championship points eight times. Changes came in 2010 when Mads twice entered a Fiesta S2000 in WRC events before turning for one final appearance in a Subaru at the grand old age of 23 years in the Wales Rally GB. Why start off with a World Rally Car? “Because the cars were available. It started when we had been in contact with Subaru Norway and they bought a car for us. Father noticed that other drivers were starting young in big cars, notably