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, they 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.