Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT secured its fifth podium of the season in Australia, this time thanks to Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen, once again illustrating the team's improving form in the second half of the year.
THE STORY OF THE RACE
Having grown up on Scandinavia’s roller-coaster roads, Mads Østberg has often been partial to rallies held on flowing, fast roads and Australia is certainly one such event. Despite being short of competitive racing since Wales Rally GB, his last WRC outing, the Norwegian wasted no time in reminding everyone of this as he grabbed the rally lead with a stage win on SS3 – Sherwood (26.68km), the longest test on Friday’s leg, and held onto first place until the end of the day. A first leg during which Craig Breen also produced an impressive performance. Second behind his team-mate on the first run on Sherwood, the Irishman claimed the stage win on the second pass, thus confirming the undeniable balance of the C3 WRC on this road surface, which remains difficult to reproduce in European tests. A talented former kart racer, Craig also showed his assurance on the two runs on the super-special stage, held mainly on tarmac, ending the opening leg in second position. Unfortunately, the race took a different turn at the start of day two, initially with a minor issue with the throttle sticking open, then a small but costly mistake that damaged the rear suspension and dropped down him to tenth place. Meanwhile, Mads tried to keep his charging rivals at bay, eventually relinquishing the overall lead after the third stage (SS11) on day two. Despite completing his first run on the evening’s super-special stage (SS17) in the rain, unlike two of his direct rivals for the podium, his perseverance and commitment were rewarded, as he remained within striking distance of the podium at the end of Saturday’s leg. In fourth place, just 20.3s behind the driver in front, he still had a chance going into the final leg with heavy showers expected to produce extremely testing conditions. The slippery, tricky conditions put paid to the hopes of two of the world title contenders, but Mads – at one with his C3 WRC on a road surface that was more like an ice rink in places – held his nerve. He initially put himself out of reach of any possible comeback from the driver behind him, before then benefiting from a racing incident to move up into third position on the penultimate stage. He therefore claimed his second podium of the year, after finishing as runner-up in Finland. His performance enabled Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT to grab a top-three finish for the fifth time this season, after podiums in Sweden (2nd), Mexico (3rd) and Finland (2nd) and winning in Spain. Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Scott Martin ended the rally in seventh position.