HELSINKI // Mads Ostberg defeated both the legends and the stars on Sunday to win the Helsinki Battle exhibition race for the Citreon Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, ahead of Rally Finland this week.
On a track set up in the Hietalahti district of the Finnish capital, six world champions were joined by past rally greats such as Markki Alen, Macus Gronholm, Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen.
Ostberg defeated all comers in recording his first victory for the Abu Dhabi team, which enjoyed a winning day on what has otherwise been a challenging season.
“It’s always good to win,” Ostberg said. “And this victory is a perfect warm-up for next week’s Rally Finland. The winning feeling will be great to bring with us.”
The Finland Grand Prix, which begins Thursday, is the fastest event on the world championship calendar.
The Abu Dhabi team enters the second half of the 2014 season aiming for strong result.
The team will field two entries, driven by Ostberg and Jonas Andersson, and the other car will be driven by the Britons Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle. Rally Finland is made up of 26 stages, on smooth gravel among forests and lakes. The circuit is known for big jumps.
“Technically speaking, the Finnish route calls for great precision in the set-up of the cars. It’s a very complicated rally to win,” said Didier Clement, the Abu Dhabi team’s chief operations engineer.
“It took us several years before we managed to win here.
“You need to know the course very well and avoid making even the slightest mistake. It’s a sprint from start to finish and there is virtually no chance of making up any time lost though mistakes.”
To prepare for this round, a test session has been scheduled.
“Nothing is left to chance,” Clement said.
“More so than elsewhere, the drivers must be able to feel confident in the car. It has to be particularly responsive.
“Usually, we always look for a balanced set-up, an effective compromise. In Finland, above all else, you need pure speed.”
During the tests, the Abu Dhabi team will also be preparing for the future, since Michelin will be providing new tyres in their competitive debut at this rally.
The cars will also be equipped with several upgrades as part of the development program initiated for 2015.
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